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JN7 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 




CHOU-FAA, T1JE REIGNING PRINCE OF SIAM. 



See page 87- 



N 



NARRATIVE 



OF A 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



BY FREDERICK ARTHUR NEALE, 

Authoi' of "Eight Years in Syria," &c. 




LONDON : 

OFFICE OF THE NATIONAL ILLUSTRATED LIBRARY, 

227, STRAND. 

1852. 



DATE 



PR 

CES 

JAN2 



NARRATIVE OF A 



AT THE CAPITAL OF 



THE KINGDOM OF SIAM; 

\ 



WITS A DESCRIPTION OF 



THE MANNERS, CUSTOMS, AND LAWS 



MODERN SIAMESE. 



BY 



PEED. ARTHUR NEALE, 

Formerly in the Service of his Siamese Majesty ; Author of " Eight Years 
in Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor." 



LONDON: 

OFFICE OF THE NATIONAL ILLUSTKATED LIBRARY, 

227, STRAND. 

1852. 



LONDON : 

IKADBURY AND EVANS, PEINTERS, \VHTTEKRIAKS. 



ADVERTISEMENT. 

AT a time when the relations of this country with the 
nations east of the Ganges are occupying much attention, it 
is hoped that the following work, relating to a country 
hitherto very imperfectly known to Europeans, will prove 
interesting to the British public. "With the territory of 
Siam, lying as it does between the Burmese empire, with 
which we are now at war, and the confines of China, we 
must ultimately have greater intercourse than we have 
hitherto had. The Siamese and the Burmese look on each 
other with what reason is a different question as " natural 
enemies," and ultimately the extension of our commerce, if 
not of our political power, in that region of Asia, will render 
it absolutely necessary that we should have some firm 
commercial footing in Siam. 

In the following work, while a personal narrative is given 
of the experiences of the author in that country, an attempt 
has also been made to give, from accurate and original 
sources, some account of the manners and customs, the cha- 
racter and disposition, of the Siamese ; but, above all, of the 



vi ADVERTISEMENT. 

natural wealth and resources of the district, and of the 
mode in which these could be developed. A chapter has 
been added on the History of Siam, and another on recent 
embassies to the Siamese court, in which it is hoped a 
sufficiently impartial account is given of the difficulties of 
Siamese negotiations, to counterbalance what may be con- 
sidered by many as the somewhat sanguine views of the 
author. 

The engravings have all been prepared from drawings 
made in the country, and their accuracy may be relied on. 

LONDON, May 1, 1852. 



AUTHOR'S PREFACE. 



WHEN I first undertook to compile, partly from notes and 
partly from a pretty retentive memory, the incidents and 
narrations which compose the following brief sketch of the 
Siamese, their manners and customs, and the nature and 
produce of their country, I had already run the gauntlet 
through the host of critics and reviewers, who kindly 
condescended to discuss the merits, or otherwise, of my first- 
born literary production, " Eight Years in Syria, Palestine, 
and Asia Minor." It is needless to say, that trembling as I 
did under the ordeal, my alarm was only exceeded by my 
gratitude for the lenient, nay, in some instances, flattering 
reception I met with from the public press. This, and this 
alone, has induced and emboldened me to assume afresh the 
steel pen of modern authorship, and though I do not aim at 
distinction on the score of enlightening the British public 
on the all-important subject of the statistics and commercial 
wealth of an empire, rich indeed in its natural produce, and 
but slightly known to the majority of readers, still, I am not 
without hope that this volume may contain some information 



viii AUTHORS PREFACE. 

regarding the habits of a people who are at the best semi- 
barbarous, at the same time that some small knowledge may 
be gleaned regarding the national wealth and commercial 
enterprise of Siam. 

I may here, in self-defence, state that at the period of my 
visit to that distant Eastern empire, I was, though even then 
somewhat of a traveller, quite young both in years and 
understanding: were it not for this, I should have most 
assuredly amassed more valuable information to offer to the 
public ; but geographical information and statistics are not 
often the hobbies of youth, and a shooting party or a rowing 
match had, at that period, more charms for me than the 
pursuit of more useful knowledge. 

F. A. NEALE. 



CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER I. 



PAGE 



Departure from Singapore. Squally weather. Dangerous situation of the 
ship. Experience of a Typhoon near Pulo Obi. Description of it. Pro- 
gress to Siam. Slaughter of the ducks. Arrival at the Bar of Siam . 



CHAPTER II. 

Paknam. Arrival of ship reported, and permission requested to enter and 
proceed up the river. Consequences of not complying with this rule. 
Proceed up the river Menam. Description of Paknam. Its fortress. 
Siamese King's permission to all the world to dine. Paknam villagers. 
Incident with the natives. Punishment of priests, &c., for an attack on the 
English. Paknam houses. The Government-house. Siamese ladies. 
Description of the Menam. Scenery. Birds. Native canals. Paklat 
Boon. Dockyards. First sight of Bangkok. American missionaries. 
Appearance of Bangkok in the morning. Junks. Description of houses. 
Accident to one. Population of Bangkok. Fall into the river. Mr. 
Hunter. Order from Prince Chou-Faa to cast a cannon Tombs. Prisons. 
Markets. Annoyance from Crows. Siamese aversion to walking. Mode 
of passing the day among the residents of Siam. Account of the French 
Missions ... 12 



CHAPTER III. 

Royal dockyards in Bangkok. Siamese navy. Quarrels with Cochin Chinese. 
Names of Siamese ships of war, all British. How given. Composition 
of the crews. Labourers in the dockyard. House of the Portuguese consul. 
Anecdote about bricks. Story of vacancy among floating houses. 



CONTENTS. 

JAGE 

Rebellion of Peer-si-pifoor. How it was arrested. Awful punishment of 
the rebel. Mr. Neale's audience with the king. Wonderful Siamese map. 
Tombs of the three kings 42 



CHAPTER IV. 

Marriage ceremonies Description of a Siamese beauty and her accomplish- 
ments. Siamese courtship. Negotiation with the parents. The Bride- 
groom's new canoe. Funeral rites of the Siamese. Burning of Bodies . 68 



CHAPTER V. 

Geographical description of Siam. Account of the inhabitants. Chinese part 
of the population. Articles of commerce. Native wealth of Siam. Veget- 
able and mineral. Seasons why it is not developed. Gamboge. Pet rats. 
The Tokay. Adventures with. Birds. Fruits. Climate of Bangkok. 
Food of the Siamese. Intoxicating drinks. Samshoe. General tem- 
perance of the people. Prevalent diseases. Digression on the effect of 
change and custom on our ideas of beauty. Description of the Monsoons. 
Ravages of Cholera. Precautions against. Kitchen vegetables. The 
tea-plant 67 



CHAPTER VI. 

The Prince Chou-Faa. His friendship for the English. His desire for know- 
ledge. Drill of his artillery soldiers. Terrible effect of a man-of-war's 
salute. The Prince's skill in making and repairing watches. His 
melancholy and its causes. His wives and children. Account of a carouse 
at his palace on Christmas day, 1840. Siamese game of battledoor and 
shuttlecock. Chinese theatrical performance. Sketch of the drama. The 
Christmas dinner. Visits to the temples of the White Elephants. De- 
scription of the watts. The two elephants 87 



CHAPTER VII. 

Chanti Boon. Its situation and buildings. Account of the attempt of a 
Chinese Captain to run away with a richly laden Siamese Government 
trader. Mode of conducting business at Chanti Boon. Adventure with the 
Siamese officer of Customs. Monkeys and snakes. Description of the 
country. Siamese cookery. The White Ant and the Cobra di Capello. 



CONTENTS. 



Use of the ant-hills by the latter. Feeding of the Cobra by the natives. 
Tringano. Passage across Siamese Gulf. Encounter with a whirlwind. 
Bardia. Champon. Effect of a salute of twenty-one guns. Collectio 
of tribute from the Rajah. Return voyage 102 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Festival of the Peace Offering. Legend which has given rise to the festival 
Procession of the inhabitants to celebrate it. Description of the cere- 
monies. Peculiar mode of catching fish. Description of a supper supplied 
by a Chinese. Visit to the ruined city of Yuthia. Return to Bangkok . 125 



CHAPTER IX. 

General character of the Siamese. General inoffensiveness of their disposition. 
Their dress. Their passion for gambling. Smoking opium. Description 
of its effects. Their skill as swimmers. Adventure of an American who 
could not swim. Want of beauty in ladies of Siam. Use of betel-nut. 
Ceremonies at birth of a child. Amusements of ladies in the higher 
ranks. Siamese women excellent housewives. Education of children. 
Selling of daughters. General summary of Siamese character 147 



CHAPTER X. 

Dispute between " Governments of Siam and Cochin China. Confiscation of 
Siamese vessels in Cochin China ports. Reprisals. Fury of the King of 
Siam. His councils always held at night. Army sent to frontiers. Ship of 
war " the Caledonia " ordered for sea. Author put in command of 250 
marines. Character and discipline of the Ship's crew. Cruel instructions 
given to the Officers. Encounter a severe storm. Ship nearly lost. 
Curious adventures of a cargo of Sugar on board. Return of Vessel . . 161 



CHAPTER XI. 

Trade of Siam. Imports from China. Excellent quality of Tea. Sugar Candy, 
Silks, Cloths, Ivory Carvings, Writing Paper, Toys, &c. Mode in which 
business is transacted with Chinese Junks. All the crew owners and 
traders. Harmony with which they manage their affairs. -Imports from 
India. Meagreness of Imports from Britain. Exports. System on which 
business is conducted. Treatment of Bankrupts. Reasons for supposing 
that trade between Britain and Siam could be greatly extended . . 173 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER XII. 

PAGE 

Shooting Excursion. " The Friends' " Cutter. Fishing for Pomphlets. Landing 
at Pigeon Island. Description of the Island. Shooting Pigeons. Govern- 
ment Despatch Boxes. Amusing Adventure with one. Fire at Bangkok. 
Attack on Mr. Hunter's house. Breaking out of the Cholera. Aiithor 
returns home . 189 



CHAPTER XIII. 

A Brief Sketch of the History of Siam 206 



Recent Embassies to Siam 221 

Siamese Songs 229 

Siamese Music 234 

Siamese Language 238 

Loubere's Account of the Siamese 242 

Maxims of the Priests of Siam . 251 



LIST OF ILLUSTEATIONS. 



Page 
!T OF THE KING OP SIAM .... Frontispiece. 

MAP OF SIAM xvi 

BEATING OFF THE COAST OF CAMBOGIA 5 

ANCHORAGE OFF THE BAR OF SIAM 10 

FORTRESS AT PAKNAM 14 

PAKLAT BELO 21 

PAKLAT BOON 23 

THE FLOATING CITY BANGKOK 30 

MR. HUNTER'S HOUSE 33 

DRY DOCK, BANGKOK 43 

PORTUGUESE CONSULATE AND MISSIONARY HOUSES, BANGKOK . 47 

SIAMESE MAP 55 

ESPLANADE AT PRINCE CHOU-FAA'S PALACE 89 

GAME OF SHUTTLECOCK, AS PLAYED IN SIAM . . . .94 

VIEW OF A WATT OR TEMPLE 98 

ENTRANCE TO CHANTI BOON RIVER 108 

VIEW OF CHANTI BOON 112 

PULO BARDIA 120 

CHAMPON 121 

SANGORA STRAITS OF TANTALEM . . . .122 



xiv LIST OF ILLUSTEATIONS. 

Page 
WORKING THROUGH PULO SANTINGO AND GREAT REDANG . . 123 

TRINGANO . 124 

CHINESE COOK ON THE MENAM 146 

MAN AND WOMAN OP SIAM 149 

OPIUM SMOKING IN SIAM 150 

SIAMESE WARRIOR .154 

INTERIOR OF A SIAMESE HOUSE 202 

SIAMESE PUNISHMENT 233 

BAND OF SIAMESE MUSICIANS % . 234 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



CHAPTEE I. 

Departure from Singapore. Squally weather. Dangerous situation of the ship. 
Experience of a Typhoon near Pulo Obi. Description of it. Progress to Siam 
Slaughter of the ducks. Arrival at the Bar of Siam. 

AVING travelled over 
the greater part of the 
Madras Presidency and 
revelled in its mangoes, 
been at Bombay and 
tasted its famed ducks 
(a species of fish), so- 
journed at Penang and 
Malacca and feasted on 
mangostins, I found my- 
self, in the spring of 1840, a dilettante 
at Singapore, a waster of time and 
dollars, with a wish to remain and 
a desire to depart, and in a sad 
unsettled state of mind as to the next 
part of the world most desirable to 
visit, for even China and Sumatra 
were stale to me. 

In this dilemma I one day en- 
countered the captain of a fine Bombay 
ship, called the " Adelaide : " I had before made a voyage 




2 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

with her from Penang to Tellicherry on the Malabar coast, and 
a merry time we had of it on board. 

" Holloa ! " exclaimed the captain, " you here ! why what 
port are you bound for now 1 " 

" That is just the question I was about to put to you myself," 
was my rejoinder. 

" Oh, as for me," he replied, " I am bound for Bangkok, in 
Siam, and sail to-morrow evening if the weather permits, a 
queer outlandish place it is, and if you have nothing better to 
do, take a trip down there with me ; I'll go bound you won't 
repent the voyage." 

" Agreed," said I ; and agreed it was. I went to mine hotel, 
packed up my effects, took an affectionate farewell of mine 
hostess, bid adieu to Singapore, and got into a boat that rowed 
manfully for the good ship " Adelaide." 

The best cabin in the ship was allotted to me, and as I was 
quite an old stager at voyaging, I occupied myself the whole of 
next day in putting things into shipshape order : my bed was 
well slung ; my clothes properly arranged ; books, and charts, 
and paint-boxes, and instruments, secured from tumbling off the 
locker ; one or two little pictures slung upon brass hooks in 
conspicuous places ; and this completed, I was ready to set 
forth on my voyage to explore lands hitherto unexplored 
by me. 

Towards evening a great many queer-looking packages came 
off, and a little later, Monseigneur the Roman Catholic Bishop 
of Singapore, accompanied by two grave and demure-looking 
priests. These chattered like so many starved parroquets till 
nigh upon nightfall, and then Monseigneur and one priest 
departed, while the other remained, and I made the important 
discovery that this priest was going to be my fellow-passenger. 

" Parlez-vous Frangais 1 " inquired the priest. 

" Non, Signer, non intende," was my reply ; for I was then as 
ignorant of French as a savage is of Latin grammar. He nodded 
his head, however, to a basket, and withdrawing therefrom a 



STORM IN THE CHINA SEAS. 3 

bottle of Maraschino, he made me understand that we should 
partake of the same. 

Now, this was sense, and a language that any man could 
understand ; so we clinked our glasses together, and from this 
period became the best of bosom friends. 

Sailors have a horror of priests and black cats, and it so 
happened that we had both these harmless creatures on board at 
starting. The cat, however, was soon flung overboard by the 
mate, and if he had not had a fear of judge and jury, the priest 
would certainly have followed the cat on some occasion, when 
a dark night and a favourable opportunity presented itself. 

The next morning we weighed anchor and sailed through the 
Straits, passing along almost within stone-throw of the eastern 
shores. Pedro Blanco, a small rock in the middle of the channel 
was safely passed, and by night we were fairly launched into the 
China Seas. Whilst beating off Cape Romania, we experienced 
thick foggy weather and squalls, which rendered navigation 
perilous amongst the many islands and shoals with which these 
seas abound ; at daylight, the morning after quitting Singapore, 
we had ample proof of the necessity of a wary watch being kept 
to look out for the hidden perils of the deep. Scudding before 
a squall under very light canvas, we discovered through the 
mist that surrounded us the dim outline of land not two hundred 
yards ahead, and upon which the surf was roaring and foaming 
in a most fearful manner : in putting the ship about, she missed 
stays, and we were all on the very threshold of perdition. The 
captain was as pale as a wintry moon, and as for the Lascars, 
they were rushing and tearing about like a posse of chickens 
that had just caught sight of a hawk, knocking over each 
other and everybody they met. The Serang, or chief boat- 
swain, upset the poor Padre, and before he could recover 
his equilibrium he received grievous bodily injury, and was 
trodden nigh unto death. In this sad dilemma my poor 
skill in nautical matters was put to the test. I was then cer- 
tainly what finished seamen would term a " lubber," and ever 

B2 



4 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

afterwards I never pretended to great honours ; but at that 
moment of peril I became inspired with a knowledge foreign to 
my intellect. With death staring me boldly in the face ; with 
destruction painted in every billow, and complete extermination 
uttered by every foaming surge that spread far and wide around 
us ; with echoing knells from every pierced rock and empty 
cavern, my cool self-possession never forsook me. I felt pre- 
assured that such a frightful death, such a torture amongst 
sharp-pointed flinty rocks and dashing pitiless spray was not 
then my destiny : and the poor clay, clad with a soul's radiancy, 
was not fated to become a merry feast for the hawk and the 
vulture, or the equally carnivorous sea-gulf. 

Braced up and encouraged by such a presentiment, I took 
upon myself the command of the vessel, not directly but 
indirectly. I hinted to the captain the absolute necessity of 
trying to wear the ship ; he followed my advice, but alas ! even 
here the helm failed to command the impetuous progress towards 
destruction, and the command was given to let fly all but the 
spanker ! The ship spun round like a top ; and then hoisting up 
the fore-topsail and backing it, we floated past land and dangers, 
and by mid-day found that we had passed through Pulo Tiuggi 
and Pulo Aor, and setting all sails on the larboard tack, sighted 
and passed the high land of Tioman, steering as direct a course 
as we could for Pulo Obi, on the Eastern extremity of the 
gulf of Siam. 

A day and a night, and half a day, we were spanking away 
under all available sail. Then came a little mizzling rain, and 
the glass was falling quickly, and everything around warned 
us of an approaching storm. It came before nightfall: first 
there was a dead calm, and the water was as smooth as a 
mill-pond ; then a dark line upon the deep came as avant-courier 
of the tempest ; bringing a mild heavenly breeze, invigorating one, 
and instilling fresh life after the sultry heat of the day ; at intervals 
the wind became squally, and shifted all round the compass. 
From the heavy dark bank of clouds to the southward, we felt 



O RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

well assured that a typhoon was raging in the China Seas ; 
accordingly our best and safest plan was to keep, if possible, 
in the gulf, where the sea, being land-locked on several sides, 
afforded shelter to a certain extent. We worked tack-and-tack 
as the squalls shifted. Towards midnight the squalls became 
more violent, and kept on stiffening till they settled down into a 
gale ; the gale became a hurricane, and the hurricane a tornado, 
that turned into a typhoon. 

We had luckily but the fag-end of this terrific tornado, which, 
in one dark gloomy night, sent upwards of a thousand men to 
a sad grave in a fathomless deep. The "Golconda," bound 
from Singapore to China, with part of the 37th Kegiment Madras 
Native Infantry, was supposed to have foundered on this very 
identical night ; this much is certain, that she exchanged 
signals the previous day with a vessel bound for the Straits, and 
from that hour to this, neither stick, nor plank, nor any remnant 
of those brave and generous hearts that proudly throbbed in 
expectation of victory's brightest laurels, has ever come to light 
to let man know to what mysterious and fearful end those 
hapless people came, or how or where they found a troubled 
resting-place in those deep sullen waters beneath the wave, 
whose quiet, still repose, no storm has ever yet sought to disturb. 

The night passed heavily ; and roughly were we tossed from 
wave to wave. Then came the acme" of our troubles : long, long, 
before it reached us, had we seen the fiery lightning, darting 
fury from the sombre heavy clouds that hung in pinnacles upon 
a tempest-built bank. Then there was a murmuring like the dis- 
tant voice of many waters that had burst from their bondage, 
and were now bearing down and carrying everything before 
them : borne on the wings of the gale, the thunder-clouds came 
rapidly spreading over us ; flash followed upon flash of vivid 
sulphureous lightning, and in the short interval between each 
transparent flame of light, the vision was dimmed with an 
impenetrable black misty haze, too mysteriously awful for 
descriptive powers to depict. None remained on deck ; every 



ABATEMENT OF THE STOEM. 7 

stitch of canvas had long since been furled ; the very helmsman, 
tottering with fear and consternation, backed the helm amidship, 
and fled precipitately below ; and the vessel was left to the mercy 
of those elements which were then waging war like demons in 
their might. A dazzling, vivid, lingering stream of fiery light ; 
a black and frightfully dark instant of suspense ; an atmosphere 
charged with sulphureous smoke ; and then there burst upon the 
ears one mighty and stupendous crash of dinning thunder more 
loud than all the world's artillery, and mines, and shells, and 
rockets could, combined, produce. The vessel shook and quivered 
like a timid bird, and one huge splinter from the shattered 
mainmast traversed the poop-bulwarks, imbedding itself as 
firmly in the cuddy lockers as ever did the strongest javelin, 
thrown by the mightiest arm of giant strength, into some 
sapling oak. 

The storm was done. We had been flying till we had out- 
sailed its circling bounds. The lightning had swept by, to heap 
destruction on the forest trees of the then still distant shores of 
Siam. And as morning broke the crew stole forth on deck 
to find the proud gay bark a wretched mastless wreck, with 
shrouds and cords, and booms and spars, and yards and masts 
scattered in every direction ; some splintered into minute pieces ; 
others towing overboard in heavy knotted masses; and the 
whole in such a state of entangled confusion as to be seemingly 
beyond the reach of hope or remedy to the inexperienced eyes 
of landsmen. Most fortunately, the whole succeeding day we 
were in a perfect calm. Axes, and cutlasses, and knives were 
hard at work, boats were lowered, the rigging and spars overboard 
secured, the parts on deck unrove, jury masts set up and 
firmly lashed, and so well did the old Serang and his Lascar 
crew work that day, that by evening we had two courses and a 
small driver rigged, and set two topgallant as topsails on studding- 
sail booms, which swung up and down, as the weather proved 
fair or foul ; the decks were clean swept ; the odds and ends of 
the wreck, bits of ropes, spars, &c. &c., all stowed under hatches ; 



8 BESIDENCE IN STAM. 

and we were as comfortable and cozy on board as though nothing 
had happened, or no such thing as a typhoon existed. 

Light winds and variable succeeded, with calms and weather 
sultry in the extreme : the tide set us to leeward, and if we made 
twenty miles one day, we lost thirty the next ; this was bad 
enough for two or three days, but when it continued for a 
week and upwards, it was enough to exhaust the patience of a 
saint. One or two of the water-casks which had been lashed 
on deck became leaky from the effects of the sun's fierce rays ; 
the planks on the deck began to start, the seams came 
uncaulked, the paint curled off the bulwarks, and the heat in 
the cabin was most stifling and appalling. 

The captain lost all patience ; he swore at everything he 
could think of, from the cat to the priest. The gulf, he said, 
must be the dwelling-place of evil spirits, who had the power 
of tempting man to sin, and inducing him to swear against his 
own will. The cabin-boy and the cook bore the brunt of his ill- 
humour ; he buffeted the one because the cabin was hot and 
uncomfortable, and cuffed the other because the soup was cold 
and clammy. And woe betide the cat, or rather cats (for there 
were several of a different hue to the black one, which had met 
with an untimely end) ; woe betide the cats if he caught them 
pilfering. All the crew were immediately set to work to hunt 
out the two felons, and when caught, their two tails were lashed 
together with spun-yarn, so scientifically knotted, that nothing 
but the loss of the tails could separate them. In this wretched 
plight they were swung over a rope drawn taut for this express 
purpose, and there left to battle out the watch between them- 
selves. Such a mawl-rowing, and growling, and spluttering, and 
spitting, and scratching, and biting, was never witnessed between 
two feline combatants. Each 'culprit presumed the other to be 
the immediate cause of the pain and suffering entailed upon it by 
its tail being cruelly squeezed and pinched, and sought mutual 
retribution for injuries received ; but Capt. C. was by no 
means innately a cruel man, and the moment his wrath was 




PULO OBI. y 

diverted by seeing the cats suspended in this atrociously ludicrous 
method, and before they inflicted any serious injury on each 
other, he cut short the combat by cutting down the rope. 

Twelve days elapsed from quitting Pulo Aor before we caught 
sight of land again, and then we were not much gratified by the 
land we sighted proving to be Pulo Obi or Ubi, on the south- 
western extremity of Cochin China. In one instance, however, 
it proved lucky and even gratifying ; it enabled us to procure a 
fresh supply of water and provisions, and afforded me an oppor- 
tunity of visiting its little-frequented shores, and of having a 
whole day's rest on terra firma, pleasantly occupied in exploring 
a wild and singular land. A large Chinese junk lying at anchor 
was an excellent guide for us, and we brought up within a 
cable's length of it. The junk turned out to be an annual 
trader from Canton to Bangkok, and having experienced very 
rough treatment from the same typhoon in which we had 
been dismasted, had been compelled to run into the harbour 
of Pulo Obi, not only for water and provisions (which had been 
all washed overboard), but to procure if possible a new mat sail, 
the only one she had left being in a very tattered and wretched 
condition. 

Pulo Obi is the resort of a few roguish Cochin Chinese, who 
have been exiled their country for various offences against the 
state. At the time that Crawfurd visited this island, there were 
only eight people residing upon it ; where we landed, there was 
a village of some thirty huts, containing about from ninety to 
one hundred inhabitants, and overrun with pigs, ducks, and 
fowls. Each head of a family possesses a tract of enclosed land, 
in which are grown yams, sweet potatoes, and a few other 
vegetables. Sailors of junks arriving from China eagerly barter 
tea, sweetmeats, birds'-nests, and other edibles, for live-stock and 
yams. Sailors of Siamese vessels barter rice, ghee, dholl, and 
other necessaries, for fresh vegetables and poultry ; so that these 
isolated beings subsist entirely upon the produce yielded by 
their fields and farm-yards, a small portion of which they them- 



10 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



selves consume, and by disposing of the rest, furnish themselves 
with such requisites and luxuries as are not obtainable in the 
island itself. They appeared to me to be very merry over their 
misfortunes, and from being of late years often brought in 
contact with the crews and captains of all the vessels trading 
with Siam, evinced no fear or suspicion of strangers, and only 
tried, as most orientals usually do, to get as much out of them 
as they possibly could. 

Our progress from Pulo Obi towards Siam was slow indeed ; 
we seldom' made more than thirty miles during the twenty-four 
hours. The days were hot and oppressive in the extreme ; the 






ANCHORAGE OFF THE BAB OF SIAM. 

nights poured with rain. One very wet night the captain was 
on deck, and drenched to the skin, and in no very amiable 
humour. Our stock of ducks, on the contrary, were in the 
greatest imaginable state of enjoyment, and evinced their perfect 
satisfaction at the state of the weather by repeated loud 
quackings, sometimes so noisy that the captain was unable to 
make himself understood. At length his patience was utterly 



ARRIVAL AT SIAM. 11 

exhausted, and lie ordered the cook to watch for the ducks that 
made most noise, and slaughter them instanter. The cook 
obeyed the injunctions given him to the letter, and next morning 
not a single live duck was to be seen. The victims were salted, 
and we were compelled to subsist on them during the remainder 
of our long and tedious voyage. 

Forty-two days had elapsed since our departure from Singapore, 
when we at last sighted Siani ; and then all we could see of it 
was a few Chinese fishing-stakes, a long low range of mangrove 
bushes in the distance, and mountains. 







RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



CHAPTEE II. 

Paknam. Arrival of ship reported, and permission requested to enter and proceed 
up the river. Consequences of not complying with this rule. Proceed up the 
river Menam. Description of Paknam. Its fortress. Siamese King's permis- 
sion to all the world to dine. Paknam villagers. Incident with the natives. 
Punishment of priests, &c., for an attack on the English. Paknam houses. The 
Government-house. Siamese ladies. Description of the Menam. Scenery. 
Birds. Native canals. Paklat Boon. Dockyards. First sight of Bangkok. 
American missionaries. Appearance of Bangkok in the morning. Junks. 
Description of houses. Accident to one. Population of Bangkok. Fall into 
the river. Mr. Hunter. Order from Prince Chou Faa to cast a cannon. Tombs 
Prisons. Markets. Annoyance from Crows. Siamese aversion to walking. 
Mode of passing the day among the residents of Siam. Account of the French 
Missions. 

HOETLY after we had anchored 
off the bar of Siam, the Captain 
went on shore to report to the 
authorities at Paknam, a little 
town situated at the mouth of 
the river "Menam," (which latter 
word signifies in Siamese the 
" Mother of Waters,") the arrival 
of his ship, and to obtain from 
the Siamese Government per- 
mission for the vessel to enter 
and proceed up the river as far 
as Bangkok, the modern capital 
of Siam. This is a form strictly to be adhered to ; for the penalty 
inflicted upon such as neglect it, and enter the river without 
this authority, is the seizure of the vessel, the confiscation 




VOYAGE UP THE MENAM. 13 

of the cargo, the imprisonment of the captain, (a very terrible 
penalty in such a country, and in such prisons as it pos- 
sesses,) and the immediate execution of the Siamese pilot 
for an infringement of the laws of the " Brother of the Moon, 
and worshipper of the two White Elephants." Since, however, 
strange vessels never would venture to cross the bar without 
a pilot, and those acquainted with the trade know the 
necessary forms to be gone through, the threat is seldom, if 
ever, put into execution, excepting, perhaps, in occasional 
instances of small Chinese junks, which being ignorant of the 
law, and drawing only a few feet water, have passed in and 
been seized. 

After a day's delay, the captain returned with the requisite 
permit, and accompanied by a pilot ; and soon after we weighed 
anchor, and proceeded towards the mouth of the river. But, 
however good a helmsman our pilot may have been, he grievously 
lacked the very necessa.ry knowledge of the ebb and flow ol 
the tides ; and after thumping the ship several times violently 
on the bar, there we stuck, with no prospect or hope of getting 
out of this position for at least twenty hours. The tide ebbed fast, 
and as it ebbed, the vessel lay heavily over on her broadside, till 
her position became so very unpleasant that we could neither 
stand nor walk, and eventually were compelled to seek refuge on 
the outside of the outer bulwarks. The position of the vessel 
caused havoc amongst the bottles and crockery-ware in the cabin, 
and the pilot came in for a pretty round tirade of abuse from all 
hands on board. 

There is a remarkable phenomenon to be observed on this bar, 
which is, that though its distance is fully a mile from the 
Menam, yet, when the tide flows out again from the river, the 
water alongside the vessel is perfectly sweet and drinkable. 

The tide had completely ebbed off the bank before it com- 
menced to rise slowly again ; and in this interval we slid down 
by means of rope ladders, and had no small amusement in 
picking up the little fish and prawns which had been left, much 



14 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

I should think to their surprise, high and dry, floundering about 
in an element very foreign to their nature. As the tide returned, 
so we drew nearer to the vessel ; but it came up faster than 
many of us imagined, and notwithstanding our hurry and haste 
to scramble up the side of the vessel again, not a few of us got 
wet feet in the attempt. 

It was not till 10 p.m., that I could hope for any ease or com- 
fort in my bed, owing to the curious position that the vessel was 
in, and when she did right again, I was very glad to feel myself 
standing in an upright position. At break of day, next morning, 
there was sufficient water for us to proceed, and being favoured 
by a gentle sea-breeze, it was not long before we entered the 
magnificent river, and came to an anchor off the small town of 
Paknam. 

Paknam is one of the most extraordinarily picturesque spots 
upon the face of the earth. It is like a miniature view of an 
immense citadel, or a panoramic exhibition of the Boga Tigris. 







FORTRESS AT PAKNAM. 



On a diminutive little island in the exact centre ol the river 
rises a diminutive little white circular fortress, with a very 
small, but beautifully constructed, Pagoda towering up to a 



DEFENCES OF SIAM. 15 

pigmy height in the middle thereof. The absurd notion of 
erecting such a thing with the design of instilling terror into 
their enemies could never have entered the heads of any other 
nation than the Siamese, or their celestial brethren. A broad- 
side of ship's biscuits would almost annihilate it. Yet this 
jim-crack little toy is firmly believed by the king and nation to 
spread terror far and wide> and to be the dread of the English 
Government, and the only reason why they have never attempted 
to attack this, as they have all the neighbouring countries. 
Of course, there is a legend attached to this fort', some story 
about its having been founded by a Siamese deity, who still keeps 
watch over the welfare of its worshippers. On either bank of 
the river there is a long range of buttress, badly constructed 
and worse mounted ; indeed, many of the guns were so corroded 
with rust, that it would have been a dangerous experiment to 
attempt to fire them off. From these fortresses, an ordinary 
sized ship's cable is stretched across in times of alarm and 
danger ; and thus protected, the Siamese presume their country 
to be impregnable. Hence, every day, at about 1 p. m., the 
notes of a discordant horn resound through every town and 
village in the Siamese territories, meant to proclaim to the 
world at large, "that his Majesty, the King of Siam, had had his 
dinner, and was graciously pleased to grant permission to all 
other potentates on the face of the earth to follow his judicious 
example." A Siamese would no more believe that any other 
crowned head dared transgress this law with impunity, than he ' 
would in the existence of an electric telegraph ; and as for 
breaking through it themselves, instantaneous death would be 
the result. 

We landed at Paknam, to take a look at the village and its 
inhabitants. The ground was swampy in the extreme, and 
elevated pathways constructed of lime and mortar were an indis- 
pensable requisite. These pathways were not over and above 
broad, and the Siamese not very polite, so that, in passing to and 
fro, they jostled us and each other in the rudest manner, and 



16 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. . 

occasionally some unhappy individual was edged off the road, 
and disappeared amidst the mud and marshes of the quagmire. 
Such an incident occurring to any of our party would have 
occasioned very serious inconvenience, as we were all dressed in 
white, with shoes and stockings d la Franka. Not so the 
Siamese, (whose simplicity of costume will be commented upon 
in due order,) who, running to the- river, would plunge right 
in, swim some twenty yards and back, and with dripping wet 
garments pursue their avocations with all the sang froid 
imaginable. In the mud, and all around, were numbers of pigs 
in the full enjoyment of their dirty element ; and little cleaner 
than themselves were the groups of village children that chased 
them from spot to spot with fiendish delight. Little flotillas 
of ducks were swimming in puddles and ditches, and there was 
apparently no want of any kind of poultry. The villagers 
themselves were about as cut-throat a set as ever I set eyes on, 
both men and women, and as we passed, they said something or 
other in Siamese, which might have been a welcome, or a male- 
diction, for all I cared or knew. Judging from their aspects, I 
am inclined to think they were cursing us, the more especially 
as they owed the English a grudge for the sound example that 
had been made of them, not many years before my visit, for mal- 
treating two British subjects that were amusing themselves by 
shooting wild pigeons in the vicinity of their temple, or watt. 
The story was this. Mr. Hunter, a gentleman for many years 
resident in Siam, and who had the esteem and regard of all the 
better portion of the inhabitants at Bangkok, his Majesty the 
King included, was very fond of fishing and shooting, the two 
only amusements afforded to such as become voluntary exiles, and 
take up their abode in these little civilised parts. For the better 
accommodation of himself and his friends, Mr. Hunter had 
purchased a beautiful little cutter of about 25 tons burthen, 
in which many and many a time I afterwards accompanied him 
on exploring trips outside the bar, and amongst the numberless 
little islands that line the sea coast. In the instance alluded to, 



MR. HUNTER'S ADVENTURE. 17 

he had made up a pleasure trip, which was to extend, I believe, 
as far as " Chantiboon" and back. Arriving at Paknam about 
mid-day, and the tide and wind not favouring, Mr. Hunter deter- 
mined to land there, and see what sport he and his companion 
(the master of an English vessel) could get by shooting wild- 
pigeons, which were very plentiful about the neighbourhood of 
the watt, where, on the pinnacles of its lofty pagodas, they were 
wont to build their nests and rear their young. Great success 
attended the sportsmen, when (just as they were about to 
return to the cutter) some twenty infuriated priests set upon 
the pair, armed with murderous clubs, and beat and otherwise 
maltreated them most unmercifully : the whole populace rose 
upon these two defenceless Britons, who, nevertheless, fighting 
back to back, managed to keep numbers of the assailants off, 
till, attracted by the noise and riot on shore, the crew of a 
Portuguese brig, then lying at the mouth of the Menam came 
to their timely rescue, and got them on board the cutter more 
dead than alive. Mr. Hunter immediately got under weigh, and 
wind and tide favouring, proceeded back to Bangkok, where he 
and his companion immediately on their arrival presented them- 
selves at the palace, and demanded and obtained an immediate 
interview. The king was highly exasperated at the conduct of 
the people at Paknam, had the governor and chiefs bastinadoed 
most cruelly, and caused the whole bevy of priests to be expelled 
from the watt, and exiled as felons into the interior of the 
country, where their occupation to this day, if they are still 
alive, is to cut grass for the white elephants that are kept in 
such grand state, and so much reverenced, by the inhabitants of 
Bangkok and all Siam. 

The houses at Paknam were miserably dirty, constructed of 
mud and wood, and, as is the case in the Malayan peninsula 
the upper story only tenantable, the lower one being the abode 
of pigs, fowls, ducks, dogs, cats, and, I imagine, not a few snakes. 
The Government House had been built originally of stone ; some 
of the walls were still of this material, but the rest was rudely 



18 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

patched up with firewood and mud. It was the only house at 
Paknam into which you entered before mounting up stairs, and 
had rooms both in the upper and lower story. The reason of this 
was, that the Governor being the head man, and greater than 
the rest of the villagers, it was no shame for others to pass under 
his abode ; for a strong prejudice exists in Siam against passing 
under any man's abode that is not immensely your superior, a 
prejudice which I shall hereafter endeavour to account for, and 
from this cause all the other houses had ladders placed outside. 
As in Sumatra, the people preferred elevated positions, for two 
very sensible reasons the first was, to protect them from the 
stings of venomous reptiles, with which the whole country 
abounds ; the second, that the cool sea breezes might have free 
access to their couches, and help to drive away the swarms of 
musquitoes that literally drive one to the verge of insanity 
by their sharp malignant stings. The interior of Government 
House was anything but prepossessing ; a wretchedly planked 
room, with an old dingy carpet, and a few smoke-dried cushions 
to recline against. As for the Governor himself, he was a burly 
overfed Siamese, with a husky voice, and an inquisitive eye. His 
questions were mainly of a selfish nature. He asked me, through 
the interpreter, if I had ever seen such fortresses, or such a town 
as the one he had the honour to command ? I replied, with all 
truth and sincerity, that I never had. " Ah, then," said the 
Governor, " wait till you get to the capital, and then you will 
see (and here he paused, and covered his eyes with his hands 
as though the mere reflection were sufficient to blind him with 
its dazzling glory) you will see something that will astonish you 
far more than even the Emperor of China's rich capital would." 
The next thing he wanted to know was, whether I was a doctor 
or not, and on my replying in the negative, he evinced much 
delight, declaring all doctors to be ignorant men, who made 
people swallow abominable filth, whilst they themselves lived on 
the fat of the land. His own had restricted him the use of ardent 
spirits, and he said the result was, that he was very ill and 



INTERVIEW WITH THE GOVERNOR. 19 

dying. He suffered from a constitutional stomach-ache, effectu- 
ally to cure which he begged very hard for two bottles of English 
brandy, offering to give us a small detachment of chickens and 
ducks in return. During our interview, the ladies of his house- 
hold were amusing themselves by peeping through eyelet-holes, 
made expressly in a large sail that curtained off the audience hall 
from their department. They made no secret of their vicinity, 
for they laughed and talked as loudly as though they were in 
the same room, and I make little doubt their comments would 
have been rather disagreeable, had we been able to appreciate 
their pith and aptitude. As the case stood, however, we were 
perfectly innocent on this score, and in this instance at least, 
ignorance was bliss indeed. Taking leave of his Excellency, we 
returned on board, heartily glad to be enabled to exchange the 
filth and abomination of that wretched little town for the 
comfortable clean decks of our own little floating world, small 
and confined though its limits necessarily were. After tea and a 
promenade on deck, the tide began to favour us, and the moon 
rose in all the majesty of her pale glory, to be a beacon light to 
guide us through the intricate navigation of the river ; the wind 
was a mere zephyr, but it served to puff and swell out the tiny 
loftier sails, with sufficient force to urge our little bark on her 
onward way ; sometimes it was right aft, and sometimes right 
ahead, now on the lee bow, now on the starboard, according as 
the windings of the river caused the vessel to sport with its 
invisible playmate. 

So deep is the Menam and so void of shoals and banks, that, as we 
worked tack and tack up certain portions of the river, the bowsprit 
of the vessel got fairly entangled amongst the mangrove bushes, and 
tore away twigs and even boughs in disentangling herself again ; 
and as these bushes waved gently to and fro as the night breeze 
swept over them, nothing could be more magnificent than the 
aspect they presented, thickly bestudded as they were with 
myriads of glittering fire-flies that ever and anon sparkled forth 
from the black obscure shade of the bushes, throwing upon the 

c2 



20 KESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

water and all around one bright transcendant glow of radiant 
light. This was the sentimental part of the scenery, for on the 
other hand we were beset by perfect clouds of mosquitoes, whose 
perpetual dinning drowsy hum was only to be rivalled by the 
acute sharpness of their venomous stings. I sought refuge under 
the mosquito gauze, only to find that scores of these vile insects 
had already found their way there ; and being locked in with 
such an enemy was even worse than facing them in an open 
field ; but as the night advanced these wretches betook them- 
selves to the shore, and gave us a few hours of peace and tran- 
quillity. Whilst endeavouring to fall asleep, I was surprised to 
hear what I supposed to be the beating of a native drum or 
" Tom Tom" apparently close alongside the vessel ; and yet, to 
my certain knowledge from ocular demonstration, no human 
habitation existed within many miles of where we were then 
sailing ; the ground being on either side of the river, as far as 
the eye could reach, a swamp unfit even for the cultivation of 
rice, and which was continually being subjected to inundations 
of the river. This noise arose, as I afterwards learned, from a 
species of fish that followed in the wake of the vessel, and 
which from this circumstance (I mean the noise they make) are 
termed by the Siamese the Drum Fish. I saw some specimens 
of them afterwards in Bangkok : they are very ugly, with a 
species of bladder under the throat, (from which the curious 
sound is emitted,) and wholly unfit for food. Towards morning 
we approached the second town, constructed on the banks of the 
Menam, after entering the river. This is called Paklat Belo or 
Little Paklat, to distinguish it from Paklat Boon, a large and 
more considerable town some twenty miles further up the river. 
Paklat Belo is, strictly speaking, nothing more than a village ; 
in fact, not so large as many of the villages in the vicinity ; 
but it is a place of some consideration, from the fact that the 
neighbouring land on either side of the river is laid out in vast 
paddy fields as far as the eye can reach, and the rice produced is 
here shipped and carried to Bangkok and Yuthia for the con- 



CANALS OX THE MENAM. 21 

sumption of the inhabitants. Here the eye first observes signs 
of cultivation, and here also commences that busy scene of life 
which goes on thickening and increasing as you draw near to the 
capital. Boats laden with every kind of marketable produce now 
make their appearance. This is the utmost limit of the floating 
vendor's boats ; they come down with a favouring tide, so that 
no manual labour is required to urge the well-stocked canoes 
from village to village along the shores of the river : hence it 
arises that one seldom sees more than one individual in charge 
of a canoe, and their only duty consists in skilfully steering the 




PAKLAT LELO. 



boat, which the stream rapidly carries whichever way it may 
chance to set. These canoes are piled up in a manner that 
would lead one uninitiated in the art of skulling to imagine their 
safe guidance through the waters to be a moral impossibility ; yet 
such is the facility which practice gives to these almost amphi- 
bious people, that the canoes are generally entrusted to the care 
of a child not above ten years of age, and that child a girl. 
Accidents are very rare indeed, and this indeed is perfectly 



22 RESIDENCE IN SJAM. 

marvellous, considering the thousands of larger and paddled 
canoes that are perpetually plying to and fro, and which, in some 
sudden "bend of the river, hidden from each other by mangrove 
bushes, come sharply round the corner, threatening instant 
destruction to the smaller and more humble boat of the vendor 
of fish, fruits, or vegetables. From Paklat Belo there is a 
canal which is navigable at high water to canoes paddled by as 
many as eight men ; and this canal leads direct into the very 
heart of the city of Bangkok, cutting off a distance of nearly twenty- 
five miles. Proceeding from Paklat Belo, we gradually came 
upon a higher and more richly cultivated country : pretty little 
hamlets and villages were scattered over the plain in the distance, 
and in some parts the country was thickly studded with beautiful 
fruit trees ; their dark foliage contrasting well with the lighter 
and more brilliant green of the country around. One curve in 
the river would bring us in sight of the tall and graceful sugar- 
cane waving to and fro as the wind sighed enviously through its 
foliage. No bee, however cunning, could hope to suck sweetness 
from its coarsely covered canes no one but man possessed the 
secret of the rich sweetness well concealed beneath its rough 
unseemly bark and none but man knew how to squeeze the 
juice ; and, in short, not to be too sentimental, play the deuce 
with it by melting, boiling, skimming, and many other cunning 
processes, and so produce the sugar-rum and sugar-candy. One 
stout old Chinaman, who was ordering about some labourers, 
seemed evidently to possess the secret : he did look so happy and 
so fatly contented. A second curve in the river, and nothing 
but betlenut plantations on either side ; a third, and innumerable 
fruit gardens sprung up to view ; and so the scene went varying 
from beautiful to most lovely, and from most lovely to charming, 
as we spanned that river's waters, mile by mile. About mid-day 
we reached Paklat Boon, and the tide being against us brought 
up for that evening and went on shore to have a ramble. 

Paklat Boon is very prettily situated. Close to the water's 
edge are the neatly built cottages of the artificers and others 



PAKLAT BOON. ^O 

employed in the construction of canoes, and at the time of our 
visit there was a state canoe being constructed for his Majesty, 
of a length not less than from seventy to eighty feet, whilst its 
greatest beam did not exceed twelve. The dockyards are kept 
in excellent order, and the whole town is neat and cleanly rather 
a marvellous fact in these parts, and one solely attributable to 
the place being under the immediate supervision of Prenawi 




1'AK.LAT BOON. 



Consitt, a member of the royal family, and Lord High Admiral 
of the Siamese navy. He is a perfect European in manners, and 
speaks English fluently, and has adopted the manners and 
customs and tastes of our country. The little houses in the 
central part of the town were principally occupied by husband- 
men and farmers. Each house was detached, and had a garden 
containing trees yielding the most luscious fruits in the East, 
and many rare and beautiful flowers. " Well," thought I, on 



HESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

returning on board after a long and agreeable stroll, " matters 
are not so bad after all, and if they go on mending at this rate, 
the prediction of the old Governor of Paknam is in a fair way 
of being verified to a certain extent." 

Weighing from hence we proceeded up the river towards 
Bangkok. Truly the Menam is a splendid river, and well may 
the natives call it the " Mother of Waters ! " The further we 
progressed the more magnificent the river became, and in some 
parts it was a perfect lake, without a rock, or bank, an eddy, or 
any hidden harm to cause the mariner one moment's anxiety or 
alarm. The ship worked tack and tack and 'ran her bowsprit into 
the mangrove bushes on either side, to the no small alarm and 
dismay of troops of monkeys that were skylarking amongst the 
trees on the banks of the river. The further we went the more 
interesting the scene became ; the water was literally dotted with 
vessels and boats of all descriptions and sizes, ships, barques, 
brigs, schooners, cutters, junks, proahs, and canoes of every 
description and size. We were continually being hailed by the 
little vendors of divers goods, as they skulled their canoes skil- 
fully under the stern of our vessel. Some sold fish, others fruits, 
others again vegetables, and there were a whole fleet of vendors 
of butcher's meat and of bread, screaming, at the utmost pitch of 
their little voices, laudatory encomiums of their different meats, 
each vowing her own (for the canoes are navigated by girls) was 
infinitely better to that sold by the rest of the lot. There was 
one old Chinaman who had hit upon a stratagem which seemed 
to promise fairly to recompense him for his trouble. He had 
erected in the centre of his canoe a cooking apparatus, and he 
ladled out into cups of very goodly dimensions a by no means 
contemptible-looking soup, commonly known in China as " Chou- 
chou," which consists of a mixture of every kind of meat and 
vegetables that the earth produces, boiled down into a kind of 
jelly and seasoned with pepper and salt ; he had more custom 
than all the rest put together. Philosophical-looking old fisher- 
men who had spent the night in fishing, and had caught nothing, 



FIRST VIEW OF BANGKOK. 25 

seemed by their faces to declare that they had determined in 
their own minds not to go to the expense of such a luxury that 
day ; but it was a frail resolution, and made only to be broken, 
for no sooner did the much-loved fragrance reach their expanded 
nostrils, than they bid adieu to all stoicism, and rowed as fast 
as they could after the vendor of " chou-chou." 

Evening was just closing in as we passed the dockyards of 
Bangkok, which are situated three miles below the city itself. 
Here those splendid ships which compose the King of Siam's 
navy, and which would do credit to any nation, were con- 
structed, under the immediate supervision of an English ship- 
wright ; and here vessels of any other nation, that may have 
met with damage at sea, are thoroughly, and at a very cheap 
outlay, repaired. There are also one or two dry docks ; and on 
the whole, the establishment is an admirable one, and well 
suited to render services to any vessels meeting with misfor- 
tunes in the China seas. In the hands of our Government they 
would become invaluable, and yield a revenue far surpassing 
that yielded by similar establishments in other countries : but 
of this anon. After rounding the dockyards, we passed the 
Roman Catholic Mission establishment, a very unpresuming- 
looking place indeed, with a little chapel where the well-known 
cross, that brings peace and comfort to the Christian's soul, rose 
up unpretendingly amidst the surrounding magnificent symbols 
of Paganism and idolatry. Yet another tack, and one more 
turning in the river, and lo ! the glories of the floating city 
burst upon our admiring gaze, like some resplendent ray of sun- 
light through an envious cloud. It was night dark night ; neither 
moon nor stars were in the heavens. But what cared Bangkok, 
with its million globes that lighted the river's broad surface 
from side to side, for night or darkness ! It was like that fairy- 
land where houris dwell, whose eyes shed lustre lustre such as 
made the stars decline to keep their wary watch, and Madame 
Moon to hide her face behind a silvery cloud. As far as the 
eye could reach, on either side of the river, there was one 



26 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

endless succession of lights lights variegated, and of every 
imaginable colour and shape, and such only as Chinese inge- 
nuity could ever invent ; every little floating house had two or 
more of these lights ; the yards and masts of the vessels and 
junks (and these were by no means few) were decorated in a 
like manner ; the lofty pagodas or minarets of the watts were 
one blaze of light. It was the most striking, the most beautiful 
panorama I had ever witnessed : nor, had we been a day later, 
should I have enjoyed the spectacle, for the night of our arrival 
chanced to be that of one of the greatest feast-days in China 
the feast of lanterns. The tide was now setting against us ; 
and although the distance to our proper anchorage off the 
British factory was trivial and easy of accomplishment, the 
captain was afraid of getting entangled with some of the many 
craft lying in the river, and so dropped anchor just opposite the 
Portuguese Consulate, where also resided a board of American 
missionaries a regular set of Jonathans who came off imme- 
diately, and commenced guessing and calculating to an extent 
that would " whip spiders into a bale of silk," and which com- 
pletely destroyed the illusion of the magnificent view I had been 
enjoying. 

" I guess, Cap'en, you got some crackers aboard for my .wife ? 
They came all the way from Carolina, and I'll thank you to give 
'em up." 

" Who the (he very nearly went the whole extent) are 

you ? " exclaimed the blunt old skipper ; " and what are ye^ 
to think that I'm going to look after your crackers at this time 
of night, and with the vessel swinging-to." 

"I'll write to the Board, Capting," snuffled the enraged Yankee, 
" and it will be quite a long day before you bring any more 
crackers, or any other cargo, for us missionaries quite a long 
day, I guess : " and repeatedly murmuring this to himself, he r 
uninvited, took a seat, and allowed his wrath to calm down in 
the contemplation of the good cheer spread on the cuddy-table. 
Many of these gentlemen were celebrated for the like cool 



AMERICAN MISSIONARIES. 27 

proceedings. One man, Brother , a tall lank specimen of 

humanity clad in seedy black, (so tall that he might have been 
twin-brother, for aught I know to the contrary, to the celebrated 
American who labours under this inconvenience to such an 
extent as to be obliged to climb up a ladder every morning to 
shave himself,) betook himself, wife, children, bags, baggage, 
and all, on board of the W. S. Hamilton, an English vessel, on 
the point of sailing for Singapore and Liverpool, without any 
previous intimation of his intentions to the captain, or any soul 
on board. The captain, who was entertaining a select party of 
friends at a farewell champagne dinner, and who, with the rest, 
had partaken freely of that enlivening beverage, was quite taken 
aback, as he himself expressed it, at the sudden and unexpected 
apparition, but cheerfully invited the new comers to be seated 

at the festive board. Brother O stalked unceremoniously 

past the table, without deigning to notice any one in the room, 
until he had gained the door of the stern cabin, which having 
surveyed with an approving glance, and casting a look in which 
horror, contempt, and pity were admirably mingled, on the 
devilish crew imbibing strong drinks, broke forth into the 
following queries, with an unmistakeable tone of command. 
Yankee : " Capting ! you are going to Singapore ! " 
Captain (in amazement) : " I am, sir." 
Yankee : " And you go right away after sundown ? " 
Captain (coolly) : " Perhaps yes ; perhaps no." 
Yankee (more coolly still) : " Well, I guess I'll take this cabin 
for me and my partner and the precious children. We'll put 
our boxes here and our beds there. We'll eat in our cabin 

because we abhor winebibbers who have red eyes " a pause 

" and, Capting ! when we get to Singapore I'll give you thirty 
dollars ! " (very loud and emphatically.) 

It is needless to say that, notwithstanding this overwhelming 
offer, (which was just about one-fifth of the ordinary passage 

money for a single individual,) Brother O was, much to his 

surprise, quietly requested to proceed on shore ; and he went 



28 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

over the ship's side foaming with indignation, and making use 
of the invariable Yankee -missionary threat of writing to the 
Board. One would have imagined that the Board was composed 
of the most powerful and awful despots in the universe, judging by 
the many direful threats held out of appealing thereto ; whereas 
its amiable members consist principally of tender-hearted old 
maiden ladies, whose names and places of residence may be seen 
any day in the list of charitable contributors appended to the 
annually published reports, with the nature of the contributions 
set opposite to their names, which not unfrequently consist of 
articles as little suited to the climate and people they are 
destined for, as the flannel waistcoats were, which (as we read 
in "Pickwick") so much excited the elder Mr. Weller's indig- 
nation. 

As morning broke, we, who had been anxiously waiting on 
deck an hour before, gradually discovered the different marks 
and headlands of the surrounding country. One or two solitary 
glimmerings were left, sole remnants of the last night's grand 
display of lanterns, and the intense silence that reigned around 
sadly contrasted with the noisy mirth and music of the preceding 
evening. The town looks as a supper-room does the morning 
after a ball ; there was nothing left of the feast save the odds 
and ends ; jellies had melted to nauseous-looking water, and 
gaily-ornamented cakes crumbled into indescribable pieces of 
nastiness. So it was with Bangkok, as the first light of morning 
enabled us to obtain an obscure glimpse of the long range 
of floating houses that lined the river on either side. By night 
they looked gaudy enough and sufficiently brilliant in our 
uninitiated imagination to have risen up into stately palaces, 
glittering with the golden light of the sun's early ray ; in the 
morning they appeared a nondescript confusion of cabins, 
pagodas, junks, canoes, vessels, fishing-boats, rafters, and rafts, 
and heavy-looking piles of bamboo and timber. As the sun 
cleared the atmosphere, however, things assumed a pleasanter 
aspect ; and by the time that we were fairly under weigh, and 



BANGKOK. 29 

working towards the anchorage, the whole city of Bangkok, con- 
sisting of a long double, and in some parts treble, row of neatly 
and tastefully-painted wooden cabins, floating on thick bamboo 
rafts, and linked to each other in parcels of six or seven houses 
by chains, (which chains were fastened to huge poles driven into 
the bed of the river,) rose like a magic picture to our admiring 
gaze. Junks of 1400 tons were lying close alongside these floating 
cabins so close, that they could converse with each other with 
the greatest facility ; and one vessel a Portuguese that was 
working tack and tack with us up the river approached so close 
to the houses, that, in going about, she came foul with, and carried 
away with her, half-a-dozen of these floating domiciles. The 
tide was running down rapidly, and so soon as the brig 
disentangled herself, away went these houses at a steamer's 
pace, amidst the vociferous hootings and shoutings of their 
tenants ; and before many minutes had elapsed, they had 
disappeared round a corner of the river, and were stranded on 
the opposite shore ; but they sustained no great injury, for, with 
the simple difference that their dislodgement was involuntary, 
this was after all nothing but the method adopted by the natives 
themselves when desirous of changing the position of their 
shops. If the air of the " Fleet-street " of Siam does not agree 
with Mrs. Yow-chow-fow and her children, or they wish to 
obtain a more aristocratic footing by being domiciled higher up 
and nearer to the King's palace, then all they have to do is 
to wait till the tide serves, and loosing from their moorings, 
float gently up towards the spot they wish to occupy. On such 
occasions the men are armed with long bamboo poles, to keep 
their houses from coming in contact with any of the many 
vessels that are at anchor in the river ; and every soul on board 
every ship and every one within hail halloo and scream to each 
other in a most appalling manner, leading a stranger to imagine 
that the interests of the state must be at stake, and dependent 
entirely on the safe navigation of that one small floating house. 
Bangkok, the modern capital of Siam, and the seat of the 



30 



EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



Siamese Government, was computed, at the period of my 
residence there, to consist of seventy thousand floating houses or 
shops ; and each shop, taking one with another, to contain five 
individuals, including men, women, and children ; making the 
population amount to 350,000 souls of which number 70,000 




THE FLOATING CITY BANGKOK. 



are Chinese, 20,000 Burmese, 20,000 Arabs and Indians ; the 
remainder, or about 240,000, being Siamese. This was the best 
census we could take, and I believe it to be nearly accurate. The 
situation is exceedingly picturesque. I was told that when the 
Siamese relinquished the ancient capital of Yuthia, and first 
established the throne at Bangkok, the houses were built upon 
the banks of the river itself; but the frequent recurrence of the 
cholera induced one of the kings to insist upon the inhabitants 
living upon the water, on the supposition that their dwellings 



HOUSES AT BANGKOK. 31 

would be more cleanly, and consequently the inmates less sub- 
jected to the baneful effects of that scourge of the East. This 
is a remarkable fact, that an uneducated, nay uncivilised bar- 
barian, should have entertained such notions as to the conducive- 
ness of cleanliness to health and vigour ; but alas ! so slothful are 
the people so frightfully indifferent to their own interests and 
health that, although with very slight exertion their cabins or 
floating houses might be scrubbed and scoured out every morning, 
they are seldom even so much as swept. There is another and a 
great disadvantage to which this system has exposed the 
inhabitants ; it is this cattle, dogs, cats, nay even sometimes 
human bodies, that have been cast into or been drowned in the 
river higher up on the Yuthia side, are perpetually being swept 
down by the current, and getting entangled underneath the 
houses amidst the bamboo or poles that moor them ; the inmates 
as well as neighbours are assailed with pestilential odours, which 
they have no possible means of ridding themselves of ; and they 
have no alternative but to abide patiently till time and tide 
carry away this nuisance, being subjected in the interval to 
a local miasma quite sufficient to breed typhus in a malignant 
form. Another inconvenience is, that these houses, being so 
little elevated above the water's edge, are necessarily damp and 
humid, and consequently rheumatic fevers are extremely pre- 
valent during the monsoons. Mr. Hunter's floating house was 
double the size of any of the others, very neatly painted, and 
well-furnished, with a nice little verandah in front. The first 
night of my arrival I was dining there with all the English 
and Portuguese then assembled at Bangkok ; we dined late, by 
candlelight, and after dinner, walking up and down the verandah 
chatting about many little affairs, and the latest news, &c., I got 
so absorbed in the theme of conversation as literally to forget 
that I was still upon the water ; and taking one step too much, 
found myself all of a sudden up to my neck in water, with 
the tide running so strong, that I lost hold of one of the wooden 
pillars ^of the verandah ; and though I am by no means a bad 



32 BESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

swimmer, I should inevitably have been drowned that night by 
being drawn right under the houses, if assistance had not come. 

Mr. Hunter, the identical gentleman that brought home the 
Siamese twins, had, after a great deal of difficulty and persuasion, 
induced the Siamese Government to permit the Europeans resid- 
ing at Bangkok to build houses on terra firma. The Portuguese 
consul, Signer Marsinello de Rosa, the French bishop and mis- 
sionaries, the Americans and Mr. Hunter, had all gladly availed 
themselves of this permission. Mr. Hunter's was a very fine 
large prominent house, opposite to which the British ensign 
proudly floated on feast days and high days, and here every 
stranger found a home, for a very prince of hospitality was Mr. 
Hunter, as was also his young partner, Mr. Hayes. When I first 
arrived at Bangkok the building was not completed ; it was, how- 
ever, speedily finished, and we entered into possession. Soon 
afterwards I got my commission in the Siamese service as a naval 
and military officer at the same time ; a curious amalgamation of 
occupations, and one which was sometimes rather perplexing to 
myself, but the Siamese suppose that Englishmen know every- 
thing, and are au fait at every calling. The day after I joined 
the Caledonia, a forty-four gun ship belonging to the King, in my 
capacity as first lieutenant, and whilst giving the necessary 
instruction to Messrs. Eglan and Rogers, my two juniors, as to 
getting up and setting the rigging, and making other necessary 
preparations for sea, one of the state barges came alongside with 
a request from the Prince Chou-Faa, the heir apparent to the 
throne, that I would attend instantly at his palace. On arriving 
at the palace, I found to my utter amazement that I had been 
sent for to cast a cannon for the Prince ! ! ! It was long before 
I could persuade his highness that I was utterly incapable of 
undertaking such an office, and yet the Prince was by no means 
a man deficient in common sense and education, as my reader 
will perceive further on in the work. One day I was busy on 
board ; another I was with the cavalry four or five miles in the 
interior ; a third, occupied in drilling the Prince's own private 



HOUSES OF EUROPEANS. 



33 



body guard ; a fourth, doing a little pioneering work ; and so we 
rang the changes on the army and navy each week-day. 

Before Mr. Hunter gained permission for Europeans to build 
on the banks of the Menam, this privilege was entirely confined 
to the members of the royal family, and for the building of watts, 
or places of worship. The pagodas that tower up from these 
watts are of very magnificent workmanship, being a mosaic of 
the finest porcelain, inlaid with ivory, gold and silver, and the 
effect when the sun is shining upon them is perfectly dazzling. 
After the watts, what strikes the stranger's attention are three 
very lofty pillars, peculiarly and entirely inlaid with variegated 
stones, some of which I was given to understand were of 




MB ni'NTKHS HOUSE 



immense value. These are the tombs of the three greatest kings 
of Siam ; men who had done mighty deeds of valour at the 
period when the Burmese and the Siamese were at war. The 



,'U EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

king's palace itself towers high up in the air, and next in order 
comes the palace and fortress of the Prince Chou-Faa. 

Next door to Mr. Hunter were the domiciles of some seven or 
eight American missionaries and their families, and next door to 
them the Roman Catholic chapel, a small but neat building, in 
which mass was regularly performed by one or more of the 
missionaries. Three miles, however, down the river, and on the 
opposite bank, were the Portuguese Consulate, another set of 
American missionaries, the mission burial-ground, and the habi- 
tations of the French bishop and his clergy. The missionaries 
on our side were at warfare with those on the opposite bank 
regarding certain points of Church doctrine, but as they were all 
supported by one society they were compelled to have a board 
meeting once a month, to draw up reports and send in their 
drafts for monthly pay ; here violent controversies would ensue, 
which generally ended in a flood of tears and a hugging match 
all round. 

The public prisons are like so many bird-cages suspended over 
the water ; here debtors, like so many sparrows, keep hopping 
from one side to the other, as the shade shifts, and they are 
dependent upon the charity of passers-by for what they get to 
eat and drink. Women of notoriously ill fame are also similarly 
confined, with this difference, that their cages are on the rafts 
next to the banks of the river, so as to be hidden from the public 
gaze. The immoralities practised here, with the consent and to 
the advantage of Government, who derive a revenue therefrom, 
are too frightful to be attended to. 

Every house in the front tier is a bazaar, and in these bazaars 
are exposed for sale every imaginable article, the conjoint 
produce of India, China, the Straits, and even Liverpool. The 
men do not hesitate to expose, amongst other vendible articles, 
their own daughters, who may be considered to rank as a 
species of bale goods, and are often sold at less value than a piece 
of long cloth, or a gaily-coloured chintz, the only difference in 
the bargain being that should the purchaser quit the capital he 



MODE OF LIFE IN BANGKOK. 85 

must restore the girl, together with another sum of money 
equivalent to the original cost price, and so much a head for 
every child she may bring back with her on her return to the 
bosom of her affectionate family. This clause is enforced simply 
because the laws of the country demand it, for, of course, no 
affection can exist between the parent and child. Astounding 
as this must appear to the ears of civilised man, it is nevertheless 
an incontrovertible fact, and one which many others who have 
visited Bangkok can vouch for. After all, it is only giving 
publicity to that which, under a thin veil of secresy, is but? 
alas, too frequently practised all over our Eastern possessions, 
and even in Turkey and Syria. 

Boats, or rather canoes, are an indispensable appendage to the 
houses in Bangkok. Every little cabin has its separate canoe, in 
which the natives paddle to market and back again ; but at all hours 
of the night, as well as during the day, the river is swarming with 
floating bazaars, and each vendor has his separate cry, as distinct 
from one another as the cry of " Mackarel ! " is from " Dust oh ! '* 
But to make the reader more at home with the subject I am 
endeavouring to picture to his mind's eye, I shall describe one 
day and night out of the three hundred and sixty-five that 
constitute the year ; and as monotony is the prevailing feature in 
such an outlandish place as Bangkok, what occurs one day 
is repeated without much variation on every other. 

About half an hour before daybreak, the new comer is awoke 
by the most interminable cawing of innumerable flights of 
crows, passing in every direction overhead to fields and gardens, 
where doubtless they had at their last evening's reunion agreed 
to meet, for the plausible purpose of getting an early breakfast, 
and astonishing grubs and insects in their nocturnal carousals, 
before the sparrows and the larks should get the start. This 
cawing continues till daylight has fairly set in, and then a host of 
sparrows create such a rioting as renders sleep or repose 
perfectly out of the question. The busy little grey squirrel 
commences its sharp and piercing series of cries, and the vendors 

n 2 



36 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

of fresh-culled flowers, fruits, and vegetables, are busily engaged 
in their various occupations. You rise up from your bed little 
refreshed by the troubled slumber of the night, and the quiet 
rippling of the waters invites you to plunge your fevered form 
into their cool and refreshing depths. Half an hour's swim 
makes ample amends for the loss of sleep, and this, aided by the 
cool morning breeze, braces you up to combat against the heats 
of the coming day. About sunrise you are astonished to see so 
many canoes, filled with unearthly-looking beings, clad in bright 
yellow garments, like so many dire emblems of the plague. These 
are the priests belonging to the different watts or churches that 
extend along the banks of the river on either side, and they come 
round at this early hour to gather their provisions for the day, 
for they live upon the charity of the people, and the people are 
charitable, either from good will and pure purposes, or from 
necessity, for every man in Siam must, malgre lui, be charitable, 
as far as supporting the priesthood is concerned. 

Betlenut vendors dispose of their goods as fast as they can 
supply customers, for this said betlenut is as indispensable to a 
Siamese household as the rice they eat and the water they drink. 
Then comes the Chinaman, with his ready-cooked pork ; and the 
fishmonger, with his fried and well-stewed fish ; and the baker's 
girl, with bread and hoppers, (hoppers are a delicious species of 
cake, made of rice flour and cocoa-nut milk ;) and then an 
IL terminable string of raw commodities, sea and river fish, goats' 
meat and poultry, fruits, vegetables, and other minor articles of 
consumption ; and amidst this commotion amongst the floating 
vendors, the city wakes to the business of the day, and man goes 
forth to his labour and toil. We breakfasted at Mr. Hunter's 
about ten o'clock every morning, and after that meal, when 
domiciled in his new house on shore, we were wont to walk back- 
wards and forwards in the splendid balcony he had erected, as 
much for the sake of exercise, as to enjoy an uninterrupted half 
hour's chat ; and so punctual were we in the observance of this 
constitutional strut, that the Siamese on the opposite banks, who 



MODE OF LIFE IN BANGKOK. 37 

had little to do and less to think of, imagined that this exercise 
was some portion of a religious duty, which we were compelled 
to accomplish, nolens volens, in accordance with the rules of the 
penance imposed upon us; and one stout old Chinaman, a 
merchant of no mean repute, came to condole with Mr, Hunter, 
expressing sincere sympathy for his suffering, in being compelled 
to walk about so much during the then existing great heats, 
comforting him with the consolatory thoughts of the monsoons 
being nigh at hand, when the weather would be cooler, and the 
fatiguing exercise imposed less detrimental to comfort. An 
indolent people themselves, and wholly occupied in sedentary 
lollings, (for whether at home in their floating cabins, or abroad 
in their canoes, they are always, tailor like, seated cross-legged,) 
such a thing as voluntary exercise, shooting, riding, or walking, 
was a problem wholly beyond their capabilities of solution, and, 
in their estimation, that man must be a lunatic who would walk 
half a mile, when he might be comfortably paddled the same 
distance, luxuriantly seated in a canoe. After breakfast, Mr. 
Hunter betook himself to his counting-house, and we idlers 
paddled up and down the river. Some days we went to see the 
Portuguese consul, and his neighbours the American mission- 
aries. At other times we called upon the French bishop, and the 
Catholic missionaries, all very excellent people, and well educated 
and talented. An inspection of the dockyards, a visit to the 
various watts, a chat with the Prince Chou-Faa, a shooting or 
fishing expedition, made time fly quickly enough. As for the 
Siamese themselves, they bought and sold, smoked, and drank 
strong tea without either milk or sugar, paid a visit of business 
to merchants and captains of junks, made balance-sheets and 
received money due to them, and paid what they owed, (this 
latter, however, was a rare occurrence, for I have known poor 
Mr. Hunter to be months and months before he could recover 
one fuong of the money due to him,) and thus they passed the 
earlier portion of the day, till the loud echoing trumpet, soon 
after mid-day, proclaimed to the world at large that his Siamese 



!>8 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

Majesty, in condescension to the temporal wants of his people 
had condescended to dine, or breakfast, or whatever his meal 
might be termed, and then his hungry subjects set to work, and 
feasted lustily also. After this meal, and until about two or 
half-past two p.m., a perfect silence reigns around Bangkok. The 
heat is at this time of the day so overpowering, that even the 
noisy squirrel has given over cracking nuts, and seeks shelter 
and repose in the coolest boughs of the lofty Durian tree. Men, 
women, and children are hushed in the quiet sleep of their 
siesta ; no birds are observed flying about ; no noisy crows are seen 
hovering to and fro, and the only sound that breaks the perfect 
stillness of that hour is the rippling of the stream as it ebbs or 
flows along the parched banks of the river Menam. As for the 
floating bazaars, they have all long since disappeared, and having 
sold all that was necessary for the consumption of the city, they 
are now many miles down the river towards Paklat Boon, 
bartering for the remainder of their goods with the villagers that 
dwell upon its banks. 

Even we Europeans at this hour always felt weary and full of 
lassitude, and in a place that lacked amusement so grievously, 
it is not surprising that we also indulged in the renovating 
oriental siesta ; for there never was a breath of air out of the 
heavens at this period of the clay to cool our fevered blood, or 
take off in a measure the scorching heat of the sun's rays. 
Between half-past two and three p.m., that most welcome of all 
visitors in India, commonly termed "the doctor" made its ap- 
pearance. The uninitiated will start to hear me call a doctor's 
visit welcome ; but this term in India is applied to the sea breeze, 
which, punctual almost to a minute, blows coolly over the parched 
land, reviving animal and vegetable creation beneath the soft 
touch of its breath, and certainly so universal a benefactor does 
not exist upon earth. Soon after the sea breeze sets in at 
Bangkok, the drowsy populace awake once more to a sense of 
business, and the whole river is very soon one scene of lively 
.animation : more boats than ever are. now to be seen, and more 



CATHOLIC MISSION. 39 

people throng the floating houses. About this period of the day 
there is generally a great stir amongst the shipping vessels ar- 
riving and departing, loading and discharging. By and by, the 
sun sets in the west, the short dull twilight is fast giving way to 
the more sombre tinges of night. The cawing of crows once 
more resounds through the air as they fly homeward for the night 
to roost ; small lamps are twinkling in the floating houses, and 
on board the vessels ; the boats of the river grow darkish, objects 
become indistinct, an old gong strikes the half hour after six, 
and the whole place is wrapt in impenetrable night. 

For an hour or two after this, or, at the latest, till ten p.m., the 
long row of lights in the floating-houses give symptoms of wake- 
fulness and of supper being under weigh. An occasional snatch 
of a Chinese carol would reach us as we sat at the hospitable 
board of our worthy host ; by degrees even this sound would 
cease, and, save the low mournful cry of some hapless young 
vendor of fish or fruits, who dared not seek her home before dis- 
posing of a stipulated quantity, for fear of chastisement from her 
ruthless master, nothing disturbed the solemn stillness of night. 
One hour before midnight, as indicated by the old clock at 
Mr. Hunter's house, was the signal for us to disperse for the 
night, and long before that time arrived, the whole city was 
hushed in deep repose. 

Such, with very slight variation, is the method in which all 
residents at Siam pass the twenty-four hours of the three hundred 
and sixty-five days of the year. 

The Catholic Missionary Society at Bangkok, when I was 
there, consisted of one bishop and about ten French priests, 
besides one or two proselyte Chinese priests. Of the former, I 
hardly can name one that was not endowed with every talent 
that strict collegiate education could afford, and the latter were 
useful, because, besides being sincere Christians, they possessed 
the power of expounding the Scriptures to their Chinese brethren 
in a language natural to themselves from their birth upwards. 
Nor was this all : they were well skilled in medicine, and even a 



40 TtESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

few in surgery ; and if anything can win over a savage idolater 
to lend ear to the marvellous facts of faith, it is surely when he 
meets a man who has to them, apparently miraculously, relieved 
them from the greatest sufferings, and whose doctrine in one 
point of view, and that one by the Siamese considered an all- 
important one, entirely coincides with their own faith and 
religion. I allude to the celibacy of the priesthood. An ignorant 
demi-civilised being goes into the temple where he worships, and 
he sees idols, and hears fabulous tales rehearsed by the priest- 
craft of his idolatrous creed ; he sees certain forms and prostra- 
tions practised the burning of incense, and bowing before 
well-lit shrines ; and he knows that the most heinous sin com- 
mittable by a Bhuddist priest is the violation of his oath of 
celibacy. Of the incantations and prayers used he knows little, 
nor does he care to know more. Keligion is to him a ceremony 
to be gone through ; and, as for the ultimate results of life and 
death, unless very fanatically disposed to defend his own faith, 
his chief object in life is to enjoy himself as much as he can here, 
and he believes that, at the worst after death, he may be meta- 
morphosed into a snail or a lizard, or some such agreeable tenant 
of earth or sea. 

This identical savage is, from sheer curiosity, induced to enter 
a Catholic church, when, to his surprise and delight, he observes, 
not only forms and ceremonies very much approaching to those 
used in his own temple, but also images and pictures, only that 
these latter are vastly more elegant and attractive than the 
uncouth modellings and daubs that he has heretofore seen. On 
inquiry, he is gratified to learn that the priests of this faith, like 
those of his own, are restricted from marrying, and his delight 
knows no bounds when, on the bed of sickness, his attentive 
doctor and good angel pours into his eager ears the simple truths 
of blessed Christianity, and brings his happy tale to a still 
happier end, by illustrating that, as by his (the doctor's) skill, 
the suffering body of the patient finds relief, so by the skilful 
aid and love of Him who died for all, the poor, uncertain 



CATHOLIC MISSION. 41 

timorous, trembling soul that felt a certain consciousness of 
sinful fear, and yet knew not where or how or to whom to fly for 
succour, hails a rock on which to rest its weary wings, and fear 
no more from sin's tempestuous storms ! 

It is not, then, to be wondered at, that the Siamese readily 
give ear to the Catholic priest, bound like their own in bonds of 
perpetual celibacy ; but, moreover, the priests adapted them- 
selves in many ways to the usages and customs of the natives 
themselves, and most strikingly so in one respect, that of never 
wearing any covering on their head and never sitting in canoes 
that were covered over. These are two customs which the 
Siamese priesthood and royal family never deviate from; for 
they deem it sacrilege to suppose that anything should 
intervene between the lofty canopy of Heaven and their own 
bald pates, excepting in their watts or temples, which are pre- 
sumed to be hallowed, or in the palaces of the royal family, 
which are also holy, as containing anointed and sacred kings. 

How these French priests, some of whom had almost come 
direct from their own country to these parts, managed to avoid 
getting a coup de soleil, while skulking up and down the river 
with their bare heads exposed to the vertical rays of a sun that 
parched up the very earth, and quite baked the clay alongside 
the banks of the river this has been ever a mystery. The 
glare alone was sometimes sufficient to give me a headache ; 
and yet these Catholic priests were about the healthiest set 
of all those residing at Bangkok. 




RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



CHAPTER III. 



Royal dockyards in Bangkok. Siamese navy. Quarrels with Cochin Chinese. 
Names of Siamese ships of war, all British. How given. Composition of the 
crews. Labourers in the dockyard. House of the Portuguese consul. Anecdote 
about bricks. Story of vacancy among floating houses. Rebellion of Peer-si-pi- 
foor. How it was arrested. Awful punishment of the rebel. Mr. Neale's 
audience with the king. Wonderful Siamese map. Tombs of the three kings. 



F the Government establishments in 
Siam, the dockyards at Bangkok are not 
the least interesting. They are partly 
formed by nature, and partly con- 
structed by man. There are both dry 
and wet docks, but every single dock 
is separated from the other ; and instead 
of forming one vast basin, they line the 
banks of the river for nearly a mile and 
a half along the right shore. In these 
docks, the fine vessels that compose the 
fleet of his Siamese Majesty were con- 
structed, under the superintendance of an English shipwright, 
aided by experienced Chinese carpenters, who were sent to 
Bombay and there apprenticed for several years, before they 
were admitted into the Siamese employ. 

The vessels composing the Siamese navy, at the period of my 
visit, were fourteen in number, chiefly commanded and officered 
by Englishmen, who in many cases were men of great talent 
and nautical experience. 




SIAMESE NAVY. 



The following is a list of the Siamese ships of war : 



Conqueror . 
Victory . 
Caledonia . 
Good Success 
Sir Walter Scott 
Ariel 



TONS. 

1413 

1400 

1000 

700 

500 

150 



CAPTAINS. 

Jacobs 
Rogers . 
Middleton 
Triggs . 
De Luz 
Eglan . 



. 60 

. 44 
. 22 
. 10 
. 6 



The rest were principally war-junks and gun-boats, under the 
command of Manilla-men and Chinese, and chiefly occupied 







DRV DOCK, BANGKOK. 



in cruising about the coast of Cambogia and the Malayan 
peninsula. 

The Siamese were usually on bad terms with their neigh- 
bours, the Cochin - Chinese ; and on such occasions the whole 
fleet were occupied in endeavouring to waylay and capture stray 
Cochin-Chinese merchant-junks, which generally contained very 



44 RESIDENCE IN SI AM. 

valuable cargoes, destined for the Singapore or Borneo markets. 
The Siamese junks, on more than one occasion, after giving 
chase to a costly-freighted Tonkin junk, were but too happy to 
haul their wind and make the best of their way back to Siam, 
finding that the enemy was as well armed and manned as 
themselves. The precautions both parties took on sighting each 
other were ludicrous beyond measure. They fired shotted guns, 
which fell, harmless, short of the mark, somewhere about a mile 
and a half between them ; the Cochin-Chinaman meanwhile 
making the best of his way towards the port of destination, and 
the Siamese junk shortening sail according as she discovered or 
guessed the strength of the enemy. We witnessed a scene of 
this description once, whilst lying becalmed under the lee of 
Pulo Obi, wholly unable, and, if truth be known, little 
wishing to give pursuit to the unfortunate Cochin-Chinaman 
who must have fallen an easy prey to us, as our vessel sailed 
six knots to his one, and our weight of calibre would have sunk 
him at the first broadside, or else so materially damaged the 
rigging as to have compelled him to heave to immediately. In 
either case the alternative was a sad one ; for had we carried 
the crew prisoners to Siam we too well knew what cruelties 
and miseries they would have to undergo, under the despotic 
and tyrannous sway of the Siamese Government. 

On one occasion the " Good Success " did capture a junk with 
a very rich cargo ; the captain and crew came in for a handsome 
share of prize-money, but the unfortunate and harmless captives 
were subjected to the most barbarous treatment, the greatest 
luxury afforded them being alligator's flesh, and that not the 
freshest or best. 

The reader will be surprised to see that most of the Siamese 
ships of war are called after British names. This arose from 
Mr. Hunter's having been on every occasion of a vessel's 
launch solicited to give the name, and he having interpreted 
the sense in Siamese, his choice usually gave the greatest 
satisfaction. 



SIAMESE NAVY. 45 

The " Conqueror," one of the finest vessels of the fleet, was 
unfortunately wrecked in a typhoon, and the " Caledonia " on a 
subsequent occasion very nearly shared a similar fate. 

The Lascars, or sailors of the Siamese navy, were in by far the 
greater number Malays, the rest being Siamese or Burmese. 
Each vessel carried two Chinese carpenters and their assistants, 
and the seacunnies, or helmsmen, were principally Manilla men. 
Each vessel was well manned, and the " Caledonia " had a crew 
of two hundred and thirty-six individuals, captain, officers, and 
marines included. 

The Siamese Government pay very liberally. The captains 
were in receipt of one hundred and fifty dollars per month, and 
the first lieutenant received a hundred, and so on, the wages 
gradually diminished ; the very sailors themselves being in the 
receipt of, to them, handsome salaries. 

No doctors, except Siamese ones, were permitted to enter the 
navy, and for my own part, I would as fain swallow a cannon ball 
as any of their boluses. 

The shipwrights, carpenters, and labourers employed about the 
dockyards, were kept up on regular pay, and there seldom lacked 
employment for them : for what with their own vessels, and the 
numberless junks that traded to and fro, there seldom passed a 
day without some kind of job that needed their scientific aid ; 
and the dock charges were all paid into the Government 
treasury. 

Taking into consideration the semi-barbarous condition of the 
Siamese, the method they have adopted for organising their navy, 
and the measures taken to keep up the dockyards, so as to be 
both useful and lucrative, plainly evince a natural tact and 
discernment highly commendable, and the naval force, if well 
cared for and properly armed and equipped, might render infinite 
service in helping to crush that hornet's nest of pirates ever to 
be found amongst the islands and inlets of this very indifferently 
explored gulf, many creeks of which no civilised eye has yet 
penetrated, or is likely to penetrate for some time to come. 



46 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

The residence of Signor Marsinello de Rosa, the Portuguese 
consul, was very indifferently constructed with bamboos, poles, 
lath and plaster, but it was an extensive house, cleanly white- 
washed, neatly furnished, and situated in one of the pleasantest 
positions in Siain. It was the original intention of the Portu- 
guese Government to construct a splendid brick palace as a fit 
residence for their envoy at this illustrious court, and so far had 
they progressed towards the carrying out of their intention that a 
vessel laden with the finest bricks, and accompanied by Portuguese 
masons and artificers, actually sailed from Goa, (the Portuguese 
island on the Malabar coast,) bound for the city of Bangkok. 
But alas ! she was tempest-tost in the China Seas, and finally 
stranded on some hidden shoal, from which the crew with 
difficulty escaped with their lives the vessel went down the 
bricks sunk with her, and so did the hopes of the poor Portuguese 
consul, for his Government could but ill afford to risk such 
another cargo, and so Signor de Rosa hoisted his flag on a flag- 
staff more fitting for his originally intended consulate than it 
was for the very unpresuming house he occupied. The consul 
had been residing at Bangkok since the year 1828, and had, of 
course, acquired a thorough knowledge of the Siamese dialect. 
He was a gentlemanly quiet man, who passed his life in poring 
over Siamese books, and seldom or never left his house unless to 
attend mass of a Sunday, or to return a visit to his old and attached 
friend Mr. Hunter. He was a meet neighbour for the quiet 
unpresuming American missionaries that resided in this part of 
the city, who were a far better disposed and educated set than 
those that surrounded Mr. Hunter's new residence. Messrs. 
Birch and Deane, in particular, were men worthy of the pro- 
fession they had embraced : the former was possessed of con- 
siderable private property, so that no earthly motive could 
have induced him to enter the Church. 

The Portuguese consulate and the missionaries' houses are in 
this part so constructed as to form a tolerably large square, 
extending from the Baptist chapel down to the banks of the river. 



THE PORTUGUESE CONSUL. 



47 



On the very verge of these banks stood a stately old tamarind 
tree, which had weathered nigh a century's storms and summers. 
Under this tree Signor Marsinello de Eosa had constructed a few 
pretty garden seats, and reared a few choice flowers. And on 
this spot of a morning, before the sun's rays had waxed too 




PORTUGUESE CONSULATE AND M1SS1OXAKY HOI SES, BANGKOK. 



warm, and of an evening after the heat of the day had passed, 
the consul and his sedate neighbours used to assemble and discuss 
the latest news of the day, or watch the gay scene the river 
presented, or turn to more gloomy themes and moralise on life 
and its many uncertain tenures ; the incentive to such argument, 
and what gave it gusto, being evidently the churchyard, which 
was not twenty yards from the tamarind tree. I sometimes joined 
these reunions when engaged to dine with Signor de Kosa, and 
after making themselves as miserable as they could, the timely 
cawing of the crows homeward bound to roost would warn 



48 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

Jonathan of its being time for tea and crackers, and the same 
warning served to remind Signor Marsinello that dinner ought 
to be ready, and so the melancholy knot would be unknotted. 
Five yards from the roots of the tamarind tree, is the jetty or 
landing-place, where a flight of very good wooden steps are 
placed, descending which we get into our canoe, and paddle 
up the river as fast as the tide and the sinewy arms of the Siamese 
boatmen will carry us. 

About a mile or two further up the river, you come to a 
vacancy, amongst the floating-houses, situated very nearly 
opposite to Mr. Hunter's house a void in those peopled 
thoroughfares in which no Siamese would ever wish to moor his 
house, or suffer his little canoe to paddle over its mystic waters. 
Your boatmen shudder as you pass this place, and so do you 
when you learn the sad tale that has doomed that spot to 
perpetual solitude. The story is this : 

Not many years before my arrival at Siam, and still perfectly 
fresh in the memory of Mr. Hunter, a revolutionary outbreak 
occurred in the interior provinces of Siam, the ringleader of 
which was one Peer-si-pi-foor, or some such hard name a man, 
who, from his wealth and natural cunning, possessed great 
influence over many of the inhabitants of the interior provinces. 
In an unlucky hour for him, the demon Ambition took firm 
possession of his breast, and from that time forward he dreamt 
but of the sceptre and the supreme sway. He consulted astro- 
logers, who augured favourably for him ; he visited old witches 
and beldames, and these worked up his inflamed imagination 
with the most brilliant pictures of success and glory ; and the 
Peer, backed by such a tissue of fortuitous events, proclaimed 
open war against the King of Siam, whom he declared to be an 
usurper, and issued proclamations and warrants duly electing 
himself lawful successor to the throne. The priesthood and 
populace were on his side, and to set the matter beyond 'the 
shadow of a doubt, the Peer, in open day-light, appeared in 
public decked gaudily in gold and tinsel habiliments, and 



EEBELLION OF PEER-SI- PI-FOOK. 49 

mounted upon the back of a white elephant ! it being an 
understood thing all over the Siamese dominions, that none 
but the king himself could ever presume to bestride a white 
elephant, the beast held in most reverence amongst them as 
a deity. 

News of this alarming outbreak duly reached the ears of the 
infuriated monarch at Bangkok, who instantly gave orders that 
the trumpeter that day should, in addition to the usual permit 
granted to all other nations of the earth, blast forth a loud and 
direful revenge upon the head of the rebel-chief and his followers 
proclaiming aloud that the celestial bodies (being connexions 
of the royal family) had determined upon scorching them up till 
they became as dung upon the earth. 

The celestial bodie.s, however, took no active part in assisting 
the enraged monarch, and in the interim, the rebel and his 
followers made rapid progress, and were speedily approaching 
the very capital itself. Their name spread terror through the 
kingdom, and the King of Siam, amongst his fifteen hundred 
wives and numberless concubines, sat down and trembled as a 
boy would sit behind his mother's chair, who expects castigation 
for some juvenile delinquency. The few Europeans, inhabiting 
Bangkok, began to be alarmed for their lives and property, and 
sought safety on board of some vessels that were anchored at the 
mouth of the bar. 

In this crisis, Mr. Hunter bethought him of turning to some 
use the guns that were rusting on board the vessels of war ; 
the hint was given at head-quarters, and joyfully acted upon ; 
and, as the ships of war were of too great a tonnage to proceed 
up as far as Yuthia, the ancient capital, the water there being 
extremely shallow, several of the guns were transhipped into 
smaller craft, and, with ample supply of ammunition, and under 
the direction of a few Englishmen and Siamese, the expedition, 
composed of a body of nearly twelve thousand men, sailed up the 
river amidst the acclamation and prayers of the whole city. On 
arriving at Yuthia, the guns were landed, and, by means of 



50 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

trucks, conveyed to a village three miles in the interior, and in 
that direction from which the assault of the rebel and his 
followers was expected. Here, under the superintendence of 

Messrs. H r and M n (the latter in the Siamese service) 

serviceable batteries were soon constructed, the cannon well and 
firmly mounted, and loaded with grape shot. Scarce two days 
had elapsed after the completion of these very necessary prepa- 
rations, when the frightened inhabitants of the village were 
awoke one morning by the shouts and victorious yells of the 
rebel and his followers, and great indeed was their consternation 
to find that the numbers of the enemy vastly exceeded their own. 
They would have fled instantly, had not the English and Manilla- 
men, aided by a few staunch Malay Lascars, previously and 
in secret consulted together, and taken precaution against such 
an event. In placing the guns in the batteries, they had not neg- 
lected to have some four or five pointed towards that direction 
by which alone the runaways had escaped, and now, match in 

hand, M n declared aloud to them, that if they dared be such 

dastards as to desert them at that critical moment, he would not 
only knock them to pieces with their own guns, but would, if 
obliged to return to Bangkok, have every man put to the rack to 
suffer a lingering death. This proclamation had a salutary effect. 
The Siamese, seeing escape vain, determined to act as desperate 
men often act, with a false courage. 

Meanwhile, the noise of the invaders grew louder and more 
appalling ; their songs of revelry and mirth proclaimed to the 
listeners their certainty of undisputed possession ; they were not 
two hundred yards off the batteries (which they imagined to be 
lime-kilns, or some such harmless erections), when, at a given 
signal, a cloud of smoke burst forth enveloping everything in its 
darkness, followed by the bright flash and the thundering roar 
of that most unexpected artillery. The enemy reeled and 
staggered beneath amazement and fear, and the shrieks and 
groans of the dying and the wounded proclaimed the awful 
execution that that " iron tempest " had committed. Before 



PUNISHMENT OF THE IlEBEL. 51 

the smoke had cleared away, before those that were unscathed 

knew how to act, or where to fly to, Captain M n, with a 

chosen body of Manilla-men, had sallied forth, and capturing 
the rebel and one or two of his followers, was on the safe side 
of the stockade again. The others were all busy in sponging and 
reloading the guns an unnecessary precaution, as ere this 
operation was completed under their unskilful hands, the whole 
rebel army had fled far beyond range of cannon shot. 

Peer-si-pi-foor was carried to Bangkok, tried as a traitor, and 
sentenced to death. This was what might have been expected 
even in countries far more civilised than Siam, but the appalling- 
part of the tale is the method by which the sentence was put 
into execution. The wretched criminal was condemned, first to 
have both his eyes put out by the application of searing-irons, 
and then to be placed in an iron cage (that had formerly had for 
inmate a Bengal royal tiger), which was suspended just so high 
above the waters of the river, that the unfortunate captive by 
stretching his arms through the close iron bars could barely 
manage to touch the ripple of the waters with the extreme 
tip of his fingers. 

Here without food or raiment, with no protection from the 
fierce sultry heat of the noontide sun, with his brains racking 
and burning, and suffering from the acutest agonies that thirst 
can impart, did that unhappy culprit listen to the cool rippling 
sound of these waters, for one drop of which, like Dives of old, he 
prayed to wet his parched and withering tongue. How earnestly 
did that man pray for death, and that dark Angel, at all times 
too ready to come unbidden, kept aloof, and mocked his misery 
for three long days and nights. 

Mr. Hunter charitably undertook to petition the king, that at 
least the man might at once be put out of his misery ; but the 
flint-hearted monarch had a revengeful and insatiable temper, 
so that the petition proved of no avail : and when the wretched 
rebel died as he did, at length, happily for the alleviation of his 
suffering, as an unconscious lunatic, a universal murmur of dis- 

E 2 



52 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

satisfaction spread on every side, and even the most barbarous of 
the Siamese conceived an utter detestation for the monarch who 
had so publicly displayed a spirit that evil demons could hardly 
excel. 

The mixed groans and execrations of the dying rebel are said 
to have been the most heart-rending, and mothers use the name 
of the unfortunate Peer-si-pi-foor as a warning to hush their 
crying children to sleep ; the spot where the cage was suspended 
is still distinguishable, being the only open space along the right 
bank of the river, from the Portuguese Consulate up to the 
palace and the tombs of the three kings. 

The other principal ringleaders met with comparatively easy 
ends, and the whole country and provinces which had risen up 
against the government, were laid under heavier taxation than 
that inflicted on any other portion of the empire. 

The king gave us an audience soon after my arrival at Bangkok. 
Mr. Hunter introduced myself and the several European ship- 
masters into the royal presence. In the first place we left 
Mr. Hunter's about two p.m., in a very gorgeously gilded state 
canoe, that had been placed at our disposal by Prenawa Consett, 
the Lord High Admiral of Siam. On arriving at the palace 
steps, which were dangerously slippery and offensively filthy, we 
were compelled to induce the boatmen by promises of a reward, 
to carry us on their shoulders to terra firma, white duck trousers 
not being peculiarly suited to the puddles we should have had 
to hop through. Once on dry land we began to look about the 
court-yard of the palace. It was filled with a strange con- 
glomeration of beautiful Italian statues, placed on pedestals of 
chaste workmanship, and of uncouth and unseemly figures of 
Siamese deities and many-armed gods. Amidst these latter, 
representations of many four-footed animals, held in much 
reverence by the Siamese, were to be seen. After loitering here 
for about half an hour, which half hour was pleasantly enough 
passed, we were summoned into an antechamber, where we were 
permitted the very unusual luxury of European chairs to rest 



INTERVIEW WITH THE KING. 53 

ourselves on, till such time as His Mightiness, the connexion of 
the many bright stars in the firmament, should see fit and proper 
to summon us into his most august presence. Finally, the 
summons came, and we were ushered into the presence-chamber 
of royalty : when I say ushered, I should rather have written, 
we hopped into the presence-chamber on all fours, like a company 
of frogs on the borders of a marsh ; and this method of approach- 
ing the king was a leniency only accorded to us, for the Siamese 
themselves crept in on their stomachs, and remained prostrate 
during the whole interview. On our first entry, I could perceive 
nothing but a very magnificent curtain worked entirely of gold 
and silver tissue, which stretched across the whole length of the 
room ; presently the soft notes of a remarkably sweet-toned organ 
reached our ears, and as the symphony gradually swelled into 
the beautiful cadence of one of Mozart's masterpieces, the curtain 
drew aside by degrees, and revealed to our expectant eyes the 
corpulent and half-naked body of the mighty and despotic king 
of Siam. The silence that ensued for some minutes was only 
interrupted by the sweet music of that self-performing little 
organ ; and innumerable were the prostrations made by the 
craven courtiers and flatterers that surrounded His Majesty. 
The king was seated upon a throne (cross-legged of course,) of 
somewhere about two feet elevation from the ground, formed of 
most exquisite workmanship in ivory and ebony, with a cushion 
and hangings of fine red velvet, inwrought with silver : and the 
scene would have been very imposing, had it not been for the 
ludicrous appearance of His Majesty himself, who (excepting the 
fine gold tissue cloth wound round his loins, and reaching down 
to his knees,) had very much the appearance of an old over- 
bloated Brahmin priest, and appeared to have been putting to the 
test that insane practice, which tradition attributes to the 
Brahmin tribe, of eating till the straw which they had previously 
tied round their stomach as a mark to limit their feastings, 
should burst. 
At length, after puffing and blowing like a porpoise, he 



54 UES1DENCE IN SIAM. 

managed with an evident effort to press into the service his 
very wheezing and wretchedly cracked voice : he told the inter- 
preter to inform us that he had been at variance with the 
Burman Empire for several years past regarding a boundary 
question that the Burmese were a complete flock of silly geese 
to dare to presume to dispute his rights and that if they 
persisted in their ignorance and folly he should be compelled 
to send a handful of chosen valiant soldiers and one or two of 
his irresistible ships of war for the benign purpose of cooking his 
(the Burman Emperor's) goose. His corpulent Majesty got so 
excitable upon this subject that he insisted upon the chart of the 
two kingdoms (drawn, as he proudly informed us, by his own 
prime minister) being laid upon the ground before us, to the 
end that we might be fully convinced of the utter absurdity and 
folly of the Burmese pretension. A huge roll of canvass was 
accordingly produced, but before allowing it to be unrolled, His 
Majesty impressed upon us the incontrovertible fact that such 
portion of the chart as was painted red indicated the Siamese 
possessions, whereas the green signified the Burmese territory. The 
map was then carefully and slowly unrolled, the old king eyeing 
us the while through his fishy-looking eyes, as though he expected 
that the brilliancy of the painting, and the exquisite display 
of Siamese geographical talent, would have caused us to faint 
away on the spot, or go into rapturous fits of delight. Happening, 
however, to be Europeans, and more especially Englishmen, and 
having chanced to set our eyes upon such things as charts and 
maps before, no such disastrous effects resulted. We were, 
however, very nearly outraging all propriety by bursting into 
fits of laughter, and very painful was the curb we were obliged 
to wear to restrain our merriment. The inclination to smile, too 
visibly depicted in our faces to be mistaken, was, happily, by His 
Majesty, construed into delight and admiration at the beautiful 
work of art set before us to dazzle our eyes with its excessive 
brilliancy of colour. The map was about three feet by two ; in 
the centre was a patch of red, about eighteen inches long by ten 



NATIVE MAP OF SIAM. 55 

)road ; above it was a patch of green, about ten inches long by 
three wide. On the whole space occupied by the red was 
pasted a singular looking figure, cut out of silver paper, with 
a pitch-fork in one hand and an orange in the other : there was 
a crown on the head, and spurs on the heels, and the legs, which 
were of miserably thin dimensions, met sympathetically at the 
knees, and this cadaverous looking creature was meant to 




SIAMI^K II A 1'. 



represent the bloated piece of humanity seated before us, 
indicating that so vast were his strength and power that it 
extended from one end of his dominions to the other. In the 
little patch of green, a small Indian-ink figure, consisting of a 
little dot for the head, a large dot for the body, and four 
scratches of the pen to represent the legs and arms, was intended 



56 EESIDENCE IN STAM. 

for the wretched Tharawaddy, the then King of Burmah. A 
legion of little imps, in very many different attitudes, were 
dancing about his dominions, and these hieroglyphics were to 
show to the uninitiated in what a troubled and disturbed state 
the Burmese empire was, and what an insignificant personage, 
in his own dominions, was the Burman king. Betwixt the 
green and the red, there was a broad black stripe, an indis- 
putable boundary line ; and on the red side of the black 
stripe, a little curved thin line drawn with ink, to indicate the 
territory laid claim to by the Birmans but disputed by the 
Siamese ; the rest of the map was all blue, and on this blue, 
which was the ocean, all round the red or Siamese territory 
vilely painted ships were represented sailing to and fro, 
some with the masts towards the land, the others evidently 
bottom up, at least their masts pointed in the wrong direction. 
The poor Burmese had not even so much as a boat to display. 
Having, of course, acquiesced in all that His Majesty said, and 
given utterance to exclamations of surprise in mute show, like 
so many ballet dancers, the old king seemed to be quite pleased 
and delighted, and ordering the map to be carried away indulged 
in a confidential chuckle for a few seconds. On the interpreter's 
return we were asked many trivial and ridiculous questions. He 

asked Mr. H if Captain de la T e was a doctor, and on 

being answered in the negative he wished to be informed whether 
he was a barber, then on being again answered in the negative, he 
seemed quite surprised, for the highest profession amongst the 
Siamese is that of a medical man, and next to him ranks the 
barber. 

In the very midst of all these questions and answers, and 
at a time when his Siamese stoutness seemed to take a very 
lively interest in what was going on, the curtain very suddenly 
and unexpectedly dropped, and the king was totally eclipsed 
from our admiring gaze. The courtiers made three devout 
humble prostrations to the curtain, and then we silently and 
noiselessly withdrew. As soon as we had fairly gained the 



TOMBS OF THE THREE KINGS. 57 

outer court, I asked an explanation of this sudden disappearance 
of royalty. " Hoot awa, mun ! " said H , who was a Scotch- 
man, and thoroughly retained the brogue, " Hoot awa, mun ! do 
ye no ken that this is breakfast time ? " And so it was ! His 
Majesty, feeling hungrily conscious of the fact, had thought fit 
to make this sudden exit, leaving us uninitiated in the dark for 
the time being. This was the first, as it was the last, visit I 
ever paid to the imperial palace ; and my opinion was, and is 
now, that any common cooly picked out of the streets of 
Madras would have cut just as respectable a figure as His 
Majesty, and even perhaps have had more manners and 
politeness. 

Leaving the palace, we strolled on foot as far as the tombs of 
the three kings, three of the most singular-looking pillars, I 
suppose, in existence. The pedestals are about twelve feet high, 
and are built square, each side measuring fourteen feet. These 
pedestals are constructed of the finest black granite, and the 
cornices and ring round the top and bottom part are of exqui- 
sitely-chiseled ivory, representing birds and flowers, and groups 
of animals : from the pedestals the pillars rise in a high conical 
form, and are, I should imagine, thirty feet in height, if not 
more, from the top of the pedestal ; the columns themselves are 
wrought in a chessboard-pattern, having little square pieces of 
different materials let into the solid masonry, and so closely con- 
nected that it is only on very near inspection the cement can be 
discovered. No two patterns are of the same material : one is 
gold, the next ivory, then porcelain-ware, then copper, then 
silver, and so on in regular succession, but all arranged with 
great attention to colour and shade ; and the combined effect 
produced by these, when the sun shines upon them and they 
are viewed from afar, is really dazzling beyond description. 
Beneath these are supposed to repose the remains of three 
Siamese monarchs, celebrated alike as the bravest of the brave 
in warfare, and the mildest of the mild in peace-time : the 
fathers and protectors of their people. 



58 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



CHAPTER IV.' 

Marriage ceremonies Description of a Siamese beauty and her accomplishments. 
Siamese courtship. Negotiation with the parents. The Bridegroom's new canoe. 
Funeral rites of the Siamese. Burning of Bodies. 



HE ceremony of marriage is seldom 
performed in Siam, and never amongst 
the poorer classes. These latter pur- 
chase or barter for a wife, so soon 
as they consider themselves old enough 
to be married, and except some 
stranger fall in love with the bride, and 
offer a round sum for her, she generally 
remains for life with the first choice 
of her heart, if that indispensable 
article in love has had anything to do 
with the affair ; but the nobles and 
wealthier portion of the inhabitants marry and are 
given in marriage amongst their own peculiar class 
and clique, and this they do to strengthen their 
influence by ties with opulent and influential 
During my sojourn at Siam, two or three of the 
lords of the land were married, and if I describe the court- 
ship and marriage of one of these it will be sufficient to give 
the reader an idea of how such things are done at Bangkok. 
One of the Lord High Admirals took it into his head to increase 
his wealth and connexions by a marriage, and fell straight in 
love with the daughter of the Praklan, not that he had ever 




families. 



SIAMESE COUIITSHIP. 50 

seen the fair damsel in question, but he had heard her beauties 
described by his mother an old lady remarkably similar in face 
and shape to one of Macbeth's witches. I speak from experience, 
for I have often seen the old lady in question (not the witch, but 
the mother of Consett). Well, this old lady had filled Consett's 
head with very many accounts of the fair one in question ; she 
was compared to a young and timid doe, trembling at the sight 
of a man from behind her muffling veils (for the higher classes go 
about covered like Turkish women), as a doe would at the sight 
of a royal tiger ; her eyebrows were only to be equalled in beauty 
and blackness by a couple of leeches. Of course her eyes were 
diamonds her teeth highly polished ebony and as for her hair, 
no cockatoo could boast of such a tuft. Her accomplishments 
were ladylike and pleasing for a Siamese ; she swam like an 
alligator sung like a bulbul (one with a bad cold, I imagine) 
danced to the music of the reed instrument and never ceased 
chewing betelnut, having always a quid in her left cheek. The 
possession of such a treasure must needs be of very great 
importance to a Siamese gentleman, and consequently no time 
was to be lost in securing her. Under these circumstances the 
old mother was immediately despatched with a snow-white 
pigeon and a rose, to be laid at the feet of the young lady, in 
the name of her son. If the young lady was agreeable (and I 
never heard of any one getting jeioabbed, i. e., refused in Siam) 
then the rose was placed iii her bosom, and the pigeon was 
liberated. The anxious lover and his friends, being on the look 
out in their garden, hail the return of the bird with loud accla- 
mations and other demonstrations of joy, and pass that day and 
the three following in merry-making and riot. The father, so 
soon as he is made acquainted with the circumstance, orders his 
state canoe and pays a visit to the intended bridegroom. Not 
the slightest allusion is made on either side to the all important 
question at issue. The son-in-law that is to be, receives his 
distinguished guest with all becoming honours a "feu dejoie" 
of musketry is fired on his arrival something is said about a 



60 KESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

white pigeon having flown over from his house and then the 
merry-making and festivity are pursued with great hilarity. 
Whilst this is going on at the happy man's house, the affianced 
lady receives the congratulatory visits of all her female acquaint- 
ance, and, like all oriental ladies, a great deal of weeping and 
wailing takes place, for they dearly love tears, do the Siamese 
ladies. They weep out of joy, and from sorrow only too glad to 
find an opportunity of displaying their tender feelings : the more 
hardened, and such as find it difficult to cry, resort to strong 
onions, the juice of which makes the eye water most abundantly, 
and these may be termed alligator's tears. 

The bridegroom is obliged to have an entirely new canoe, 
constructed for the express purpose of conveying the bride from 
her father's residence to her future abode for life, and when this 
boat or vehicle is finished, then for the first time the father 
becomes publicly acquainted with the astounding fact of his 
daughter's approaching marriage. He appears hypocritically 
unconscious of the fact, and naturally declines that his daughter 
should quit him without a handsome equivalent. This kind of 
parley occupies some time ; at last, a talapoin, or priest, is 
called in to witness the signature of the bridegroom attached to 
a paper, which declares that the young lady in question is thence- 
forward his wife, and further that in case of death or accident 
she shall be entitled to what the law usually awards to widows, 
as also, that, in case of quarrels or discontentment which might 
lead to a separation, then the husband can only send the wife 
back to her father's house, on the payment of just double the 
dower received at her marriage. This concluded, the bridegroom 
returns home, and the bride soon follows in her new canoe. The 
wives and female relatives of the bridegroom receive her, and 
duly instal her in her new abode, and from that day forward they 
are man and wife. 

In the watts or places of worship of so large a city as Bangkok, 
we naturally had often occasion of witnessing the funeral rites 
and ceremonies of the people. As a result of the climate, bodies 



FUNERAL CEREMONIES. 61 

could not be kept for a longer period above ground than what 
was absolutely necessary for the requisite preparations, which, 
amongst the better classes, consisted in embalming the bodies 
with spices and rich oily perfumes, such as oil of sandal wood, attar 
of roses, and other such-like ingredients, which facilitated and 
expedited the consumption of the body, and its utter reduction 
to ashes when once exposed to the flames of the fuel placed under 
and piled around the bier, cemented together with cow-dung and 
clay, and grotesquely decorated with flowers, both artificial and 
real. The court-yards of the watts are, so to say, the cemeteries 
of the Siamese ; at least, they are the last places on this earth 
in which the human form of the Siamese reposes before becoming 
a nothing a thing without shape or existence, scattered by 
the four winds of heaven as they list. The last rites of a 
rich man in Siam are certainly emblematical, to such as studied 
the matter at all, of the vanity and vain end of all human pomps 
and glories. The man who had enjoyed wealth and indolent 
luxuriance during a long life spent in the achievement of 
worthless pleasures, that man, now bereft of all those senses 
the gratification and indulgence of which were his every-day 
pastimes, lies stretched inanimate, and horribly void of every- 
thing to which life and intellect lend such a glorious being ; a 
cold, rigid piece of clay, infinitely below comparison with the 
least creeping insects of the earth, over whose head he once 
proudly strode, but which now, in seeming mockery, full of 
that life and energy which he so fearfully lacked, crawl in 
multitudes around, basking in the rich glow of sunshine, inhaling 
every breath of heaven, and running the giddy race of life, 
attracted evidently to the spot by the rich smell of malliapoo 
(an eastern jessamine), an odoriferous plant, and one containing 
secreted saccharine matter, on which various insects, from the bee 
and butterfly to the small black ant, delight to feast. Festoons of 
flowers hang round the bier, which is usually covered with a 
richly-worked piece of Indian muslin ; men and women in holiday 
attire and a large number of priests are gathered around the 



0-2 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

remains of their departed friend, joining in every indecorous 
demonstration of enjoyment and amusement, till the propitious 
hour for the commencement of the last requiem arrives. 
Meanwhile, nature around wears generally a smiling aspect ; the 
gaudily-built watt, whose lofty and richly inlaid spires are 
glittering in the rich afternoon sunlight ; the various groups 
of flower-shrubs waving their beautiful boughs to and fro as 
the cool evening breeze rocks them ever and anon ; the tall 
handsome fruit-trees of the East, clad in rich profusion of foliage, 
amongst whose many branches birds of fifty plumages are 
sporting and carolling gaily ; the clearness of the sky itself, 
the cool blue waters of the mighty river that ripples close up 
to the very spot where all that remains of a once haughty man 
now lies exposed to the last gaze of that bright nature to whose 
very brightness he but seldom gave one passing thought; 
these and many other similar circumstances serve to give the 
spectacle that solemnity and dread attraction, which, beyond 
doubt, it should ever command. At length the chief talapoin 
gives the signal that the propitious hour for the ceremonial has 
at length arrived ; the notes of a discordant band now strike up 
a hideous music ; the priests commence repeating prayers and 
incantations ; relations assemble round the bier, which is denuded 
of its rich coverings ; and the body, being lifted from the wooden 
coffin, is laid by one of the officiating laity on the vast pile 
of combustible matter. Lighted tapers are handed to all those 
present, without respect to creed or position in life ; each helps 
to ignite the pile ; and the angry flame rears itself proudly in the 
air, enveloping shortly all in one thick dense cloud of smoke 
and fire. Meanwhile the relatives stand in a circle round the 
fire, and go through the prescribed ceremonial of tossing their 
clothes, tied up in small compact bundles, six times over the 
intensely hot flames, taking alike great precaution that no 
particle of fire should attach itself to these bundles, or that they 
should by any mishap chance to let them fall to the ground. 
Meanwhile the fire blazes on intensely, the crackling of faggots. 



FUNERAL KITES. 03 

and other things too horrible for the conception, ceases, the 
smoke diminishes, the furnace still continues to emit small 
streaks of flame at intervals, and so effectually has the incen- 
diarism of the priests been perpetrated, that not one atom of 
that wonderful structure once called a man now exists, save 
a few handfuls of ashes, which, owing to a sun-dried kiln 
on which the body lies, have been protected from mingling with 
the cinders of the numerous other ingredients consumed in 
the fire. The ceremony is over; the birds chaunt sweetly as 
ever ; the sun shines as unclouded ; the trees alone have 
lengthened their shadows a little ; but beyond this there is no 
grave, or no one mark more positive to indicate to the inquirers 
of some few months hence the exact spot where the dead man 
lay, than there is upon the mighty ocean to show where such 
and such a sailor found a watery grave ! 

Now with respect to the formula observed by the relations, of 
tossing their clothes over the dead body six consecutive times, 
I could acquire no exact information, nor has any as yet been 
discovered as existing in the Siamese religious code, by the 
many European travellers of almost all European nations, who 
visited Siam nearly two centuries ago. I have, however, little 
doubt that this ignorance mainly arises from travellers lacking 
opportunity and position which might enable them to investigate 
thoroughly the Siamese libraries (which chiefly belong to the 
various watts), and which abound with palm-leaf MSS. of 
Siamese authors of a very ancient date. 

No European has yet visited Siam that has not to a certain 
extent been the dupe of oral traditions. The learned talapoins 
have in all ages evinced a dislike to enter too freely on the 
subject of their creeds and disbeliefs, when conversing with 
strangers ; and, even when permitted to have free access to their 
libraries, it would occupy a man's lifetime in looking over 
these uncouth records of literature, before perhaps arriving at 
one really useful and instructive MS. ; besides which, a man must 
have been many years a resident on the spot, and had continual 



64 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

intercourse with natives of all classes, before he could acquire 
anything approaching to a perfect knowledge of the Siamese 
language. The longest resident Europeans at the capital have 
been almost invariably merchants, men whose whole soul and 
energies were exhausted in acquiring wealth, or discovering some 
new opening in the commercial enterprise of Siam, which might 
eventually lead to such a desideratum. Some of the French 
missionaries, who had for upwards of a quarter of a century 
resided at Bangkok, possessed both the talent and the means of 
penetrating further into Siamese lore and literature than any 
Europeans have heretofore done ; but whether they have given 
their experiences to the French public or not, I am at a loss to 
ascertain. One man (an ingenious clever man in his way, and 
a Chinaman to boot) told a friend of mine that he imagined the 
formula observed at the funeral ceremony of the Siamese, viz., 
that of tossing bunMes, may be traced to have originated with a 
superstition very prevalent amongst the priesthood of Siam, viz., 
that there exists an immense gulf of fire between this world and 
a future better state, and that a man, according to his conduct in 
life, is enabled to skim this naming lake scathelessly, and without 
fear. Six times, however, is the soul of even the very best 
destined to undergo life in the shape and form of a man before 
acquiring a perfect and permanent right to enter into an eternal 
rest on those Elysian shores, which, according to the height of 
Siamese indolent luxuriance, abound with pleasant sleep and 
smiling dreams, and brighter waking realities. During these six 
trials on earth, should the man prove guilty of an offence towards 
the deities, then is he condemned to a renewed term of purgatory, 
which extends over a greater or less space of time, according to 
the gravity of the offence committed ; if only a peccadillo, the 
punishment is lenient, and the next appearance on earth is in 
the human form ; if of a graver nature, he has the felicity of 
visiting this in shape of an owl, or a snake, or a centipede, 
or some such little desirable creature ; and if, after this reduction 
in the ranks of life, the soul, instead of repenting, turns more 



FUNERAL RITES. 65 

stubborn or mutinous than the body which contains it, it is 
immediately dissolved the owl is shot or the snake killed, and 
the penalty becomes vastly augmented and extended through a 
century of years, during which century the criminal spirit is said 
to be occupied in the not very delightful task of carrying water 
in a wicker basket, from the stream of abundance (the Menam) 
across an extensive fiery plain, a journey of many hours' heat 
and thirst, to quench the insatiable thirst of a fiery old dragon 
that dwells on the other side, and who, notwithstanding the many 
unfortunates employed in his service, can never get more than 
about a teaspoonful of water in the space of an hour, to cool 
his scorching throat. Hence (said the Chinaman), to wish 
their departed friend a safe transit across this dreadful gulf, they 
toss their clothes over the flames consuming his mortal remains, 
the action being emblematical of their wishes that, as their 
clothes unscorched reach their hands after flying over the fire, 
six successive times, without one break in the interval, so they 
trust that this may be the sixth and last visit of the now 
departed spirit across the flaming gulf, to the sought-for haven of 
repose. In connection with this theory, I may remark, that the 
Siamese seldom or never, in any amusement, resort to the 
recreation of catching a thing with their hands ; as a ball, for 
instance ; neither will they make use of a bat, but they inva- 
riably bring the sole of the foot into play, as in the instance of 
their method of playing battledore and shuttlecock. 

Burning is not always resorted to by the Siamese there are 
many of the poorer classes who cannot afford to pay the 
talapoins their accustomed fees, insignificant though they 
comparatively be ; but these very poor people inhabit the 
villages of the interior, and they bury their dead, simply marking 
the spot with a bamboo pole, so that in point of fact no grave is 
to be seen in the whole of Siam, excepting in such small spaces 
as have been allotted to Europeans, and Christian and other 
sects inhabiting Bangkok, and which are so insignificant as 
barely to attract attention. So rare are these instances of 

F 



Ob RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

poverty, and so exclusively are the spots known to the relatives 
(who leave marks simply to identify the spot, in case of future 
prosperity smiling upon them, and enabling them to recover the 
bones for the purpose of burning them), that not even the 
Siamese can indicate the spot that denotes a grave, as bamboo 
poles are used for landmarks, and employed in various other 
methods. 

When any epidemic has prevailed at Bangkok, or when the 
cholera scourges that city, then all ideas of ceremonials are 
instantly abandoned ; the bodies of men, women, and children, 
in whom life is barely extinct, are bundled without distinction 
into large pits or tanks, or, what is even still worse, into 
the river. 






GEOGEAPHICAL DESCRIPTION OF SIAM. 



67 



CHAPTEE V. 

Geographical description of Siam. Account of the inhabitants. Chinese part of the 
population. Articles of commerce. Native wealth of Siam. Vegetable and 
mineral. Reasons why it is not developed. Gamboge. Petrats The Tokay. 
Adventures with. Birds. Fruits. Climate of Bangkok. Food of the Siamese- 
Intoxicating drinks. Samshoe. General temperance of the people. Prevalent 
diseases. Digression on the effect of change and custom on our ideas of beauty 
Description of the Monsoons. Kavages of cholera. Precautions against. 
Kitchen vegetables. The tea-plant. 

HE Siamese Empire consists of Lao, 
part of Cambogia and a few small 
Malayan States ; but the question 
of boundary lines has ever been 
a sore bone of contention between 
the Siamese and their immediate 
neighbours : hence it is difficult to 
draw an exact limit to these pos- 
sessions, they often laying claim 
to states and territory which are 
in reality under the sway of the 
Burmese or Cochin-Chinese. The 
extent of Siam in geographical 
miles may, however, be pretty correctly guessed from the 
information 011 this head amassed by the Prince Chou-Faa ; he 
reckoned its area to consist of about one hundred and eighty-four 
thousand miles ; but little is known of the nature of the country 
in the interior, excepting that the skirts of it are very moun- 
tainous, and that large tracts of jungle exist, which afford an 




68 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

asylum to numerous elephants and great numbers of beasts of 
prey. These lofty ranges of mountains are distinctly seen from 
parts of the gulf, and one or two conical and singularly-shaped 
hills are excellent land-marks to guide the navigator. The 
Menam flows right through Siam, and small vessels could and 
do navigate it to a great distance up the interior. An annual 
inundation takes place along its banks, and this has in all 
probability induced the natives to abandon erecting cottages 
on terra firma, excepting at inland villages, and there they, like 
the natives of Sumatra, have them propped up on very lofty 
poles. Thai Yoi and Thai Noe are the two distinct tribes that 
inhabit Siam ; the former being the fierce and independent 
mountaineers who, like the Anzari Arabs in the Sultan's dominions, 
scorn servitude, or to bend to the yoke of taxation. These have, 
in times of war and trouble, proved themselves valiant and effi- 
cient soldiers ; but, like bandits and outlaws, they make occa- 
sional descents into the low country, which they pillage at their 
will and pleasure. The Thai Noe, or lowlanders, suffer themselves 
to be governed and ruled by the laws of the country, and are for 
the greater part a peaceable and even honest set, and are chiefly 
employed in agricultural pursuits. Many Chinese * who have 



* Mr. Finlayson, who accompanied Crawford's embassy, says : " It is to the 
Chinese nation that the Siamese are indebted for whatever knowledge they possess ot 
the advantages of commercial intercourse. In defiance of the laws of the Celestial 
Empire there, would appear to be scarcely any limit to the extent of emigration from 
that great empire. Her subjects are the best and most industrious part of the popu- 
lation of the surrounding nations, over whom their industry, their superior intelligence, 
and knowledge of the arts have given them a great and decided superiority. Siam, 
a country sunk under the most debasing tyranny, destitute alike of arts and commerce, 
offered a fair field for the development of their superiority. Fear had long opposed 
obstacles to the increase of the Chinese, till at length the government, either from 
conscious incapacity of restraining them longer, or from motives of a different nature, 
has at length given them the most unbounded encouragement, and granted them 
privileges which render their condition infinitely preferable to that of the natives of 
the country, On the other hand, the benefits which the Chinese emigrants have 
conferred on this rude nation are of obvious and striking utility, and of no ordinary 
importance. They have sown the seeds of commercial enterprise. They have created 
commerce where none previously existed, and with their hands they have, as it were, 



PKODUCT10NS OF SIAM. 69 

settled and married in Siam reap immense wealth from sugar- 
plantations they possess in the interior : others are occupied in 
the cultivation of tobacco and several kinds of cotton, and a few 
make a living by collecting a gum much used as incense. 
Gamboge, sapan wood, and other valuable products are all 
brought from the interior to Bangkok, where, being weighed 
and taxed, they are retailed to the more opulent merchants 
established in that city, and by these latter shipped for Singapore, 
Bombay, and England. Black pepper is abundant and cheap ; 
its growth is a kind of monopoly, purchased of the king, and of 
this article alone, in 1841, no less than 5,000,000 were shipped 
for various markets. Under a better sway, what country in the 
East would rival Siam ? Kich in its soil and productions, 
possessed of valuable mines and gums, spices and pepper, the 
best and cheapest rice and sugars, and the land absolutely 
encumbered with the most luscious fruit in the world. The 
article of cocoa-nut oil alone would yield no inconsiderable 
revenue ; but though the Siamese call themselves Thai, or free, 
they are, at the best, an oppressed and cringing people, too full 
of their own troubles and taxation to give a thought to the 
improvement of their own resources by diligent labour and 
occupation. Even as matters stand, the export trade is esti- 
mated at nearly a million sterling, whilst the imports are very 
insignificant, and many parts of the interior are wholly unsupplied 
with numbers of articles that would find a ready and easy 
market. This is partly attributable to the exorbitant tonnage 
dues and duties that are levied upon foreign vessels and their 
cargoes, which necessarily very much augment the value of 
goods, and thus place them beyond the reach of that poorer 

called into existence some of the more valuable objects of commerce. Scarce twenty 
years have elapsed [he is writing in 1821] since the first sugar-canes were planted in 
this kingdom. The annual produce in sugar at the present time is stated to amount 
to 30,000 peculs, of 133J Ibs. each, or 1788 tons. This constitutes, in fact, the most 
valuable commercial article of the realm. The culture is managed solely by the 
Chinese, and it is the opinion of the chief Suri-Wong that it may be carried to an 
almost unlimited extent." 



70 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

class of merchants who alone would undertake the risks and 
difficulties attendant upon a commerce with the interior, more 
especially as regards the returns to be purchased or bartered, 
the value of which, when brought to Bangkok, after all expenses 
incurred, would barely cover the outlay. 

The gamboge obtained at Siam is very brilliant in colour. It 
exudes from incisions made in the bark of a tree, and is caught 
or collected in small chatties or earthern pots (such as are used 
to collect toddy in India) suspended from the boughs of the trees. 
It requires no further preparation to make it fit for the market, 
speedily assuming a concrete form. The Siamese are mostly 
tillers of the ground, with the exception of such as reside at 
Bangkok ; they have all the hard and laborious work, and the 
Chinese monopolise the easier and more scientific, as also more 
lucrative employments, such, for instance, as making and refining 
the sugar. The annual inundations of the Menam are very 
beneficial to the sugar-cane plantations and rice fields, both of 
which in these hot climates require a great deal of moisture 
upon the same plea as the soldier had on being taxed with 
habitual drunkenness "The climate was always a-hot, and 
made him always a-dry." 

It is a remarkable fact that in the kingdom of Siam, with the 
exception of the very lowest menials, there are no two persons 
of the same grade or rank ; and, from the king downward, each 
in his turn receives homage from his inferiors, which homage 
is paid by prostration and remaining in that attitude during the 
whole interview. In Europe and the more civilised countries, 
people rise up as a mark of respect to any that may chance to 
enter the room ; in Siam, they squat down with their hands 
crossed and their heads hanging down with an abashed air. 
When servants bring in refreshments, they crawl about the 
room in a very ludicrous attitude, putting one forcibly in 
mind of the disagreeable fact that men and monkeys are, after 
all, very much alike ; and this similitude is one reason why 



DOMESTIC RATS. 

monkeys are so much respected, all over the Indian continent, 
by the many castes that place implicit faith in the doctrine of 
transmigration : for all good men of their faith are presumed, 
after this life, to assume the form most approximating to that 
which they had quitted. At Sautgar a station half-way 
between Bangalore and Madras, and celebrated throughout the 
presidency for the very fine oranges its gardens produce the 
innumerable troops of monkeys that infest the neighbour- 
hood are permitted, unmolested, to plunder the fruit, and very 
fair havoc they make. On one occasion, a young officer who 
shot one of these felons was attacked, not by the natives, but by 
troops of savage and malignant monkeys, that surrounded the 
traveller's bungalow, and actually tried to force open the 
strongly-barricaded door, to the alarm and terror of the young 
man, who remained in this unenviable position till his servants 
and palanquin-bearers came to the rescue. The Siamese have 
an innumerable string of minor deities, some in the shape of rats 
and cats, and their months and days of the month are named 
after these. I was astonished, on visiting the houses of some of 
the inhabitants, to see a huge rat walking quietly about the 
room and crawling up the master's legs in a cool familiar 
manner. Instead of repulsing it, or evincing any alarm, he took 
it up in his hands and caressed it ; and then I learnt, for the 
first time, and to my utter astonishment, that it was a custom 
prevalent in Bangkok to keep pet rats, which are taken very young 
and carefully reared, till they attain a perfectly monstrous size 
from good and plentiful feeding. These domestic rats are kept 
expressly to free the house of other vermin of their own race, 
and so ferocious are they in the onslaughts they make that few 
of the houses are ever annoyed by mice or rats. The houses 
are occasionally infested with reptiles, the banks of the river 
being literally overrun with snakes, toads, and that most dis- 
gusting of all disgusting lizards, the tokay. The tokay is peculiar 
to Bangkok, and at certain seasons of the year appears in swarms 



72 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

larger than the ordinary run of lizards and bloodsuckers. In 
shape it somewhat resembles an alligator (though of course much 
smaller), and has a leprous-coloured skin, and a cry as sudden 
as it is excessively disagreeable. Never shall I forget the 
sudden start I experienced on first hearing the tokay. I was 
fast asleep, and the hour somewhere about midnight, when, to 
my astonishment, I awoke with the repeated cry of "Tokay ! 
tokay ! tokay ! " proceeding evidently from no great distance 
above my head, and apparently within the mosquito gauze cur- 
tains. All in the dark, both as to the cause of the sound, and 
from the fact of the candle being out, I tumbled out of bed as 
speedily as I could, and after some search for a match, having 
succeeded in striking a light, I saw, with astounded eyes, the 
most unwelcome partner of my bed quietly reclining against one 
of the bed-posts, and certainly not more than a foot above my 
pillow. I could hardly believe my eyes. I had travelled over 
many parts of India where all kinds of creeping things .prevail, 
but never had I set eyes on such a vile thing as this was. I 
shuddered again, as the thought flashed across my mind that in 
all probability it had crept right over me to get to where it then 
was. I soon awoke my friend, Mr. Hayes, a young partner of 
Mr. Hunter's, who was sleeping in the next room to mine, and 
instead of getting any consolation from him, was greatly 
laughed at for my excessive trepidation, with the quiet 
assurance that such things were an every-day occurrence ; and 
so in the sequel I found they were ; though no boarding-school 
mistress ever inspected the tables and cupboards in the bed- 
rooms in more fear and trembling of finding that most dreadful 
animal, a man, than I used to search for these tokays of a night ; 
and many and many a time have I had a skirmish with them, 
before being enabled to clear the room. They possessed such 
wonderful elasticity, that they would jump from one wall up 
which they were climbing, to nearly a distance of a couple of 
yards ; for which reason I always kept at a respectful distance, 



SEKPENTS AND BIRDS. 73 

and armed myself with the longest sticks I could procure. 
They are said not to be venomous, nevertheless I liked not their 
looks. Snakes were also very plentiful in Mr. Hunter's house, 
and, with the exception of the really pretty green snake, so 
common at Madras, were principally of an amphibious kind. It 
was no pleasant sensation to me at first to be so frequently 
brought in contact with these creatures. Fancy, looking out of 
bed in the morning, and, from some hole in the corner (for 
the chunnaming, or lining, of Mr. H.'s house had not been very 
skilfully effected), seeing the head of a serpent peeping out, and 
not knowing whether to jump out of bed and take flight, or 
remain and stare him back into his retreat again. It is cer- 
tainly astonishing how custom makes one become callous to 
these sort of things, and look upon them as matter of course, 
and almost an agreeable pastime which you feel sorry to miss. 
One thing certainly added to bring about this kind of feeling, 
and that was, never hearing of a single accident occurring from 
the stings or bites of these reptiles. But the reverse of this may 
be said as regards the Madras Presidency, for there the famed 
cobra de capello spreads terror around, and the no less 
venomous carpet-snake has also to be sadly dreaded. Not a 
few instances occur of unfortunate palanquin-bearers having 
died in the course of a few hours, from having inadvertently set 
foot upon a snake. 

It is singular to see, in the gardens on the banks of the 
Menam, a few hours higher up than the city itself, the immense 
variety of birds that are carolling and chattering noisily away. 
Large flights of parroquets are screaming over head, and the fine 
large blue mountain pigeon is cooing to his timid mate. These 
gardens are seldom visited during the great heat of the day, as 
the people keep within doors, and are generally enjoying a 
siesta. Occasionally, however, we used to make up a little 
party, to take tiffin under the shade of some lofty mango-tree, 
seated under which we sometimes got a shot or two at stray 



74 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

pigeons and parrots, both, of which mixed in a pie, form a dish to 
be by no means sneered at. 

For the profuseness and fineness of its fruits few places can 
rival Siarn. The mango, the jack-fruit, and the durian, are 
most abundant ; but as for the last mentioned, few strangers 
would relish the idea of either smelling or tasting it. The 
jack-fruit is, I think, excellent when mixed with salt and water, 
and the kernels or seed, of which it is very full, are very 
good when roasted, and resemble much in flavour our European 
chesnut. 

Bangkok is in a great measure free from many of those fatal 
and lingering complaints to which the European community of 
the three presidencies of India are subject. I never knew a 
single instance of that torturing malady, the liver complaint, 
that scourge to which thousands of our countrymen have fallen 
victims, partly from their own negligence with regard to diet 
and abstemiousness in drink, and partly attributable to the 
excessive heats to which they are exposed in the various up- 
country stations. Kamptee, Cuddapeh, Massulipatam, and 
some other similar cantonments, contain in their graveyards 
fearful records of the havoc that has been, and is being, 
committed annually by this lingering, but in most cases too 
surely destructive, disease ; and there is hardly a family in 
England that has had two or three members at any of the afore- 
mentioned and other stations but what has to deplore the prema- 
ture death of one or more. In Bangkok the heat is never of long 
continuance, and those unwholesome and most disagreeable land 
breezes, called at Madras, the long-shore winds, are here altogether 
unknown. Again, the natives are quite uninitiated in the art of 
curry-making ; their food, though seasoned with spices and hot 
condiments, does not possess one-hundredth part of the hot fiery 
substance and biliously rich gravies used in the concoction of an 
Indian curry. The Siamese and the Chinese residing in Siam are 
remarkably fond of soup, or, more properly speaking, a species 



DISEASES OF THE COUNTRY. 75 

of porridge, in which, though the main ingredient be pork, vast 
quantities of vegetables are used, and mint and black pepper- 
corns in a measure counteract the bilious effects of the, in other 
respects, rather greasy soup. Very few of the natives are 
addicted to strong drink, their chief beverages consisting of 
tea, the sweet toddy fresh from the cocoa-nut tree, and the 
pure harmless water of the Menam. The fermented toddy 
known in India as arrack is seldom or never seen, and such 
amongst them as do drink confine themselves, if they be wealthy 
men, to European wines and spirits that they can purchase from 
vessels frequenting the port ; or if not possessing the means to 
indulge in these luxuries, quaff that most baneful and least 
desirably-flavoured spirit in the world, samshoe, a Chinese 
invention, and which is distilled from rice, after the rice has 
been permitted to foment in, generally speaking, vinegar and 
water. This samshoe is sometimes flavoured with cinnamon and 
sugar, and under this guise it assumes the name of a liquor. 
Doctor B. assured me that its pernicious effects upon the human 
system were more speedy and sure than a double amount of 
pure brandy or rum would produce in a much greater space of 
time. There are but few, however, as I before stated, that 
indulge in these propensities, and to their systematic method of 
life, as well as to the fact of Bangkok being daily visited during 
certain hours by a most invigorating and healthful sea breeze, 
may be traced the cause of the non-existence of the liver com- 
plaint. Neither are fevers of a malignant character at all 
prevalent. Isolated instances sometimes occur of people falling 
victims to fevers very similar in their character to the typhus ; 
but these may generally be traced to have originated out of the 
town itself, and from the incautiousness of the patient in having 
exposed himself to night miasmas, in the vicinity of unhealthy 
jungles and marshy grounds. 

Diseases of the eye, diarrhoea, and rheumatic fevers, are the 
usual complaints in Bangkok. To the latter, many Europeans, 



76 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

both sailors and missionaries, have succumbed. Mr. Hunter lost 
his head clerk, Mr. Smith, of Paisley, a few months before my 
arrival at Bangkok ; and Mr. Hayes, his partner, was only just 
recovering from a very severe attack, that had confined him 
to his bed for nearly twelve months. The tortures inflicted by 
this malady are, I was informed, beyond description excruciating ; 
and poor Smith, before he found release from all earthly 
sufferings, was in such a state, that his groans and shrieks of 
agony were of the most heart-rending description. Nor could he 
suffer any one to approach within a yard of his bed, so painfully 
sensitive had he become to the slightest touch or movement. I 
must here, however, mention that at the period of Mr. Smith's 
illness and death, Mr. Hunter and all his friends were living 
in floating houses; and it is my steadfast belief, that had the 
new house been built and ready for occupation, no such fatal 
results would have ensued. The damp, unwholesome smell of 
these floating houses, be they ever so well matted and carpeted ; 
their close and continual proximity to the water, however strong 
the bamboo raft, and in spite of all the care taken by means of 
numerous windows and air holes to keep the rooms dry and 
pure ; these must in the long run be most deleterious to 
the health of the occupants, and I imagine that it simply 
depends upon the natural constitution whether, sooner or 
later, they experience the baneful effects of their aquatic 
residences. 

Judging from the appearance of such of the inhabitants of 
Central Siam as chance or mercantile occupations brought to the 
capital, as also of the natives dwelling in the inland villages, 
not many miles distant from it, the climate of Siam must be 
upon the whole very healthy. The natives are a fine, robust, 
healthy looking set of men and women, and the fresh tinge of 
health that circulates in their veins, and gives a crimson tint 
to their half brass, half copper-coloured cheeks, detracts con- 
siderably from the natural ugly formation of their features, 



FEMALE BEAUTY. 

and in some instances makes them appear almost handsome ; 
but there everything goes by comparison. Doubtless, to the eyes 
of an utter stranger, who had not been in the habit of staring at 
a people without exception the ugliest in the known world, 
through a series of months and years, these inland beauties 
would have seemed perfect guys of ugliness. I have often found 
this to be the case. Memory, however retentive, and however 
well aided by pictures the most beautiful that the human imagi- 
nation can conceive, and human art illustrate, gradually becomes 
inert, and cannot exercise its powers of vivid recollection with 
regard to face and features, as it can with regard to scenes and 
incidents even the most trivial ; you can remember and that is 
all, that some object of affection or admiration was something 
very beautiful and fair to behold ; but as to tracing in this 
mental retrospect one single feature as it then appeared to you, 
or delineating one single curve in its sylph-like form, this soon 
becomes an utter impossibility, unless the dried-up resources of 
the fountain of memory be afresh supplied by the truthfulness 
of a dream, and most marvellously correct are the phantoms 
then conjured up. Faces long forgotten are at a moment, when 
perhaps least thought of, revived with unmistakeable veracity, 
but so faint an impression is left behind, that nearly all recol- 
lection of it flies with our waking thoughts. This is the case 
with those whose long absence from their native country makes 
them almost incredulous in their own senses. I have seen 
faces in Penang and Singapore that I thought must rival, if they 
did not even surpass, those that we gaze upon in Regent street. 
I have left Penang, and gone to the Malabar coast, and then, 
when I saw some of the Malay ladies, why, I found that they 
were prettier than those of the Eastern Archipelago and the 
Straits of Malacca. And so on, in each country I have visited, 
and always with the same result, viz., that so surely as I 
returned to England and gazed upon our native belles, when I 
saw that in addition to the most perfect symmetry of features, 



78 EESIDEXCE IN SIAM. 

there was tlie stamp of understanding upon their lovely faces, 
that affection beamed in each eye, and warmth of feeling oozed 
out from betwixt their rosy lips ; that education, and innocence, 
and moral refinement, dwelt like a bright cloud of light refulgent 
in their faces, then was I compelled to avow, as I now most 
steadfastly do, that there is no country like Great Britain in 
the world for beauty, wit, and wisdom. All this, however, 
has very little to do with the climate of Siam ; so, after 
begging pardon for this digression, I must e'en return to the 
subject. 

The climate, then, as I before stated, appears on the whole to 
be healthy. The city of Bangkok, were its houses constructed 
on the banks of the river, and not on the river itself ; were they 
built of bricks, supported on a solid foundation, and not of wood, 
supported by floating bamboos ; were they erected in wide, 
commodious streets, with drainage to carry off everything 
unwholesome into the river, instead of being huddled close 
together, with only narrow little channels, just wide enough to 
admit of the passage of a canoe, and so constructed as to form a 
reservoir for all vegetable and other impure matter which gets 
entangled under the rafts on their passage down the river ; then, 
and under such favourable circumstances, Bangkok might vie 
with any town in the East for its salubrity of climate, and the 
beauty and convenience of its position. The glorious Menam would 
then be unfettered from bank to bank, and would render rich 
services in cleansing the place of its impurities, at the same time 
that it afforded a larger space of anchorage for shipping, which 
might be permitted to swing with the tide. 

As in India, the two monsoons are pretty regular in their 
appearance at Bangkok ; the precursor of their arrival is gene- 
rally speaking excessively close, sultry weather gloomy withal ; 
and this gloomy weather is as much appreciated in Siam as a 
fine sunny day would be in the winter months in England. It is 
such a treat, after being accustomed to the strong glare of a 



DESCRIPTION OF MONSOON. 79 

scorching sun, to see everything about you looking of a cool 
colour, wearing a nice, gloomy kind of aspect, as though the sun 
had put on blue spectacles, and was looking down mildly at us 
from afar. No one ever dreams of remaining in the house on 
these days, except such as are unable (God help them ! ) to quit 
the couch of sickness. The bare idea of a siesta is scouted with 
contempt, and the very crows leave their mid-day haunts amidst 
the shady jungles, and resort to the open fields with joyous 
cawing. There has not been a drop of rain for the last five 
months, nor has a cloud obscured the sun during that long 
interval. The parched earth is cracked and dried up ; vegetation 
has almost entirely disappeared from the ground ; husbandmen 
have long since laid by the plough and sickle, and the sugar- 
planter begins to fear that the canes will all dry on their roots ; 
for though irrigation is often resorted to, the ground is too dry 
and thirsty to admit of its doing much benefit to the sickly- 
looking, half-faded plants. At length, the long-looked-for 
monsoon arrives, his harbingers being gloomy days, and dark, 
threatening clouds, mounting high up one upon another ; there 
is an occasional growl of far-off thunder, and now and then a 
distant flash of sheet lightning. Men and boys are now seen 
busily engaged on the thatched roofs of the different floating- 
houses, pulling out handfulls here putting in fresh palm-leaves 
there laying heavy stones and other weights along the edges, 
and on the top of the roof, and getting everything in order to 
withstand the first outburst of the fast approaching monsoon. 
As for the women, they have no rest, nor do they wish for any, 
till everything is snugly housed inside. There are large jars of 
pickles, and vinegar, and preserves, and innumerable other 
articles, that have been exposed to the sun for the last fortnight ; 
all these must be carried in before nightfall, to say nothing to 
sundry mats on which onions, and garlic, and pepper, and salt, 
and cunning spices, have been exposed for a fortnight's airing ; 
these, too, must be put into jars and other receptacles, and when 



80 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

all this is done, and everything is out of harm's way, then there 
is a long line of baby-linen, or rather, infantine rags, which has 
to be taken in before they get wet again ; and these, and other 
little incidental jobs, having been completed, the good woman sits 
at the door of her cabin, smoking a quiet cigaret, and wishing 
that the storm would commence, just to cool the air a little, as 
she has nothing to dread from its wind or rain. 

Meanwhile the river presents a very busy scene also : men 
on board vessels of all nations and sizes are busily engaged 
preparing for the conflict moorings are inspected addi- 
tional anchors dropped cables veered out hatchways and 
tarpaulins put on ; and, while the Chinese skippers think 
they will be far more comfortable and safe on shore, and 
accordingly land, leaving their vessels to the care of a 
boy, bluff English shipmasters, urged by a contrary in- 
clination, get themselves rowed along-side as fast as they 
can, and having ensconced themselves in rough pilot coats and 
impervious sou'-westers, walk the poop in all the dignity of 
station, with a short clay-pipe stuck in their mouths, and their 
hands plunged deep in the recesses of their pockets. Occasionally 
they lean over the bulwarks and take a long, steadfast gaze at 
the approaching tempest, and, having made a mental calculation 
of its strength and duration, and the probable time it will take 
in reaching the vessels, walk over to that end of the ship which 
is nearest to Mr. H.'s house, and with both hands up to their 
mouths raise a gentle warning kind of a bellow to the effect that 
" Itfs a-coming" At last it does come ; we hear the voice of the 
wind long before it reaches : all the doors and windows on this 
side of the house have been firmly secured, and, to prevent acci- 
dents, heavy chests of drawers, and other weighty substances, 
have been placed against them, for should any one of them be 
burst open, it ( would be a moral impossibility to shut it again 
before the fury of the storm abated. Everybody is on the look 
out, having a back entrance open by which to retreat, should the 



DESCRIPTION OF THE MONSOON. 8L 

gusts of wind be overpowering. There's a tremendous rustling 
amongst the cocoa-nut and mango trees on the other side of the 
river ; leaves and little twigs of trees are seen flying high up in 
the air ; in another second, the vessels are all lying over on 
their sides as if they never meant to right again they swing 
violently round to the breeze, and, in so doing, the tempest bursts 
right over head, and rain, wind, lightning, thunder all seem 
combined on destruction and devastation. The squall lasts 
sometimes an hour, sometimes more, and then there is a little 
respite. The a,ir becomes most deliciously cool, and the sweet 
exhalations from the grateful earth are delightful beyond de- 
scription. There is a freshness in all nature, and the heart 
swells with joy and gratitude towards that Great Beneficent 
Being, who has looked down and remembered His creatures upon 
earth. Such is the commencement of the monsoon. The lull 
between the first squall and the regular set in of the season is 
of some hours' duration, and during this lull the weather is ex- 
tremely invigorating. Myriads of frogs are now heard croaking 
from their damp retreat, ducks become quite a nuisance, and 
large flocks of wild water-fowl, of every imaginable description, 
are flying overhead at all hours, taking an inland direction, 
where the lakes and the tanks will be soon full to overflowing, 
and which will afford shelter and food for them for several 
weeks to come. Night closes in sooner than usual to the music 
of distant thunder, the air is cool and refreshing, and sleep, such 
as has been a stranger to the eyes for many nights past, now 
blesses the repose of the slumberer. You awake about midnight, 
and hug your pillow closer to your cheek as you listen to the 
roaring of the tempest without, and the rain that is falling too 
in torrents, happy to find yourself snug in-doors and unexposed 
to the fury of the gales. Sleep soon steals over one again, and 
the next morning you rise quite a different man to what you 
have felt for many months past. Kain, rain, rain, no stop to 
rain night and day day and night, no cessation whatever ; 

G 



8*2 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

and this kind of work continues for eight or ten days. Look out 
of the window, there is nothing but puddles ; look out of the 
door, and you behold that most wretched looking of all the fea- 
thered tribe in wet weather a cock ; he has hardly heart left 
in him to crow, and seems to regard the weather as a very 
serious affair indeed, and a great interruption to his dung-hill 
enjoyments. There is no amusement in-doors but reading 
books and musty old newspapers, or writing dull letters to 
friends at a distance. Occasionally we amused ourselves at Mr. 
Hunter's by playing Lagrace, and we were once pr twice guilty 
of a game at ring-taw, the marbles being our own manufacture 
out of sealing-wax. Night, however, brought with it its en- 
livening candle lights. The darker and more stormy the night, 
the more brilliantly illuminated the rooms used to be ; and if 
the weather was particularly damp, we made ourselves com- 
fortable with a good dinner and some fine old sherry, and then, 
as a wind-up, just a leetle drop of hot whiskey toddy to make, 
what is vulgarly termed " a night cap." After the first heavy 
rains of the monsoons at Bangkok, sickness generally prevails to 
a greater or less extent, and if the rains have been of unusually 
long duration, cholera, that scourge of the East, makes its 
appearance. Those struck by this most fatal disorder generally 
succumb within the course of a few hours ; for rare, indeed, are 
the instances on record of a native having been effectually cured : 
sometimes they rally, and appear to all intents and purposes 
cured, but in these cases the debility of the patient is so great 
that he seldom recovers entirely. In 1841, the cholera, in its 
most alarming form, that called the spasmodic, broke out in the 
city of Bangkok, and before noon the next day after its first 
appearance, upwards of a thousand inhabitants men, women, 
and children were numbered with the dead. Such was the 
virulence of the disease on the second and third days, that 
relatives and connexions fled from the house infested, leaving the 
unfortunate victim to perish in all the horrors of solitude and 



RAVAGES OF CHOLEEA. 83 

unquenchable thirsts, and the priests, much against their will 
(although the more hardy of them laid their hands upon such 
booty as they found in the houses of the dead), were compelled to 
fly from house to house with the ostensible motive of succouring 
the sick and throwing the dead into- the river, with weights 
attached to them, so as to prevent their bodies coming to the 
surface again before they had been floated far out to sea ; for 
>any rites of sepulture were quite out of the question, when the 
dead were being numbered by thousands, and neither affection, 
promises, nor threats could induce any man to approach the 
house of sickness, much less to handle or carry the stricken 
corpse. 

It was on this occasion that the French Catholic missionaries 
then resident at Bangkok so much distinguished themselves for 
their charity and courageous Christian conduct. They had no 
motives but the purest to induce them to occupy themselves 
from morning till night, and sometimes even during the whole 
night, in succouring the sick and dying. Armed with such 
remedies as they thought most conducive to avert the fatal 
results of so direful a disease, they plied from house to house 
endeavouring to heal the suffering body, and to pour comfort 
and calm into those troubled souls that were so speedily sum- 
moned into eternity. To deny that we ourselves did not share 
in the general panic that reigned around us, would be equivalent 
to an untruth. It was perhaps true that we possessed more 
moral courage, and more resignation to the decrees of Providence 
than our less enlightened neighbours the Siamese, but it was a 
fearful thing to see the destruction that raged around us ; the 
blank desolation of many of the houses whose inmates we had 
been familiar with, and from whence the voice of mirth and 
merriment had oftentimes resounded. And it was appalling to 
hear the death-wail wafted over the water as ever and anon this 
sad signal gave notice that the messenger of death had crossed 
another threshold. 

G 2 



84 KESIDENCE IX SIAM. 

One grand point to be observed during the cholera is, first 
cleanliness of the house and of the person ; and, secondly, strict 
attention to confine oneself to good wholesome food properly 
cooked, and to eschew both vegetables and fruit. I have been 
more than once in towns where the cholera was committing 
frightful depredations, and I, on each separate occasion, observed 
that those who adhered to this regimen, were seldom or never 
attacked. We, in Mr. Hunter's house, adopted the advice of the 
French Catholic priests, which was to take the first thing on 
awaking in the morning a small glass of raw Cognac of the best 
quality procurable : the next thing to be done was to have break- 
fast as soon as we were dressed, and none of the doors or windows 
of the house were opened till the sun had attained a high eleva- 
tion in the skies. Smoking was strongly recommended, and to 
have braziers of well burnt charcoal fires in each room in the 
house, into which, from time to time, a teaspoonful of ground 
coffee, or a little sugar, was poured, emitting a pleasant aroma, 
and effectually fumigating the rooms. The last thing on getting 
into bed, every soul in the house, servants included, was com- 
pelled to swallow a hot glass of brandy and water, and then to 
cover himself over till a violent perspiration burst forth from 
every pore. This was a species of physicking (I allude to the 
eatables and drinkables) which would have been the reverse of 
disagreeable had it not been for the peculiar situation in which 
we were placed, and which admitted not of a moment's peace of 
mind or enjoyment. In this state matters continued for nearly 
a week when the cholera disappeared as suddenly as it had come, 
leaving the city of Bangkok minus about thirteen thousand of its 
inhabitants, amongst whom were numbered a few strangers, 
principally Americans, who, having taken the pledge of total 
abstinence, could by no argument be induced to adopt the sanitary 
regulations recommended by the worthy French priests. That 
the people died in such numbers was as much their own fault as 
it was their misfortune ; unripe fruit, and cucumbers, fish, and 



VEGETABLE PEODUCTIONS. 85 

every species of vegetable, were by them devoured with as much 
avidity as though no such a thing as the cholera ever existed ; 
and what did them more harm than anything else was the 
detestable laziness of the women, who, to save themselves the 
trouble of having to cook twice a day, boiled one immense pot 
of rice at noon, and what remained of this rice, after pouring some 
water upon it, was kept for the next morning's breakfast ; when, 
cold and turned perfectly sour, it was discussed with, may be, 
a bit of cocoa-nut and a red chilly, or else a salad of green 
mangoes, vinegar, and onions. 

On the whole, I am inclined to think that the climate of Siam 
is a salubrious climate, and that with due regard to the construc- 
tion of the houses, the cleanliness of the streets, and proper 
attention to the food and clothing of the people, it might vie 
with the wealthiest towns in India, though this is alas ! saying but 
little for it. For my own part, I would as soon be sent there as 
to any part of India, if inclined or necessitated to go to India at 
all ; the only preference that I could have in the whole Eastern 
hemisphere being that little paradise upon earth, Pulo Penang, 
where many of the happiest days of my youth were spent with 
friends the most sincere I have met with in life. 

Siam produces many very excellent vegetables for kitchen 
use. Amongst these the yams and sweet potatoes are abundant, 
and of a very fine quality. There is also the moringa, a vegetable 
tree, the seed pods of which, when green, are commonly used 
with stewed meats, and in India in curries ; then there is the 
bandicoy or bamiah, the brinjal or badingau, the pepincoy, the 
snake vegetable, wild spinnach, several different qualities of beans, 
and, of course, onions and garlic ; beyond computation Bangkok 
is the first place where I ever tasted green garlic in pickles, 
and I must candidly confess that though long journeyings 
have made me accustomed to the flavour of this nauseous root 
when used in small quantities, I liked not the pickled green 
garlic at all, and the natives were astonished at my bad taste, 



86 BESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

Ginger grows abundantly in the neighbourhood of Bangkok, 
and the natives are as skilled in making preserved and candied 
ginger as the Chinese themselves. There are many other Ijttle 
conserves and preserves in which the Siamese equally excel, 
such as the rose leaf, the lime blossom, and the candied lime 
and citron, but these latter are brought to Bangkok from towns 
in the interior, which it was never my good luck to visit, my 
rambles having been confined to within a few miles of the 
capital itself and in exploring the shores and islands on both 
sides of the gulf called Cambogia. 

I heard that the tea plant was being successfully cultivated at 
a place some sixty miles distant from Yuthia, but for the truth 
of this assertion I cannot vouch, as I never saw any samples 
exhibited at Bangkok, and I never could induce the other 
Europeans to make up a party to explore the interior, which 
was, during my stay, in rather a troubled state, owing to the 
taxes levied upon the villages and towns having rather exceeded 
in amount what they had been heretofore accustomed to pay. 




TEA PLANT. 



THE PRINCE CHOU-FAA. 



87 



CHAPTEE VI. 

The Prince Chou-Faa. His friendship for the English. His desire for knowledge. 
Drill of his artillery soldiers. Terrible effect of a man-of war's salute. The 
Prince's skill in making and repairing watches. His melancholy and its causes. 
His wives and children. Account of a carouse at his palace on Christmas day, 
1840. Siamese game of hattledoor and shuttlecock. Chinese theatrical per- 
formance. Sketch of the drama. The Christmas dinner. Visits to the temples 
of the White Elephants. Description of the watts. The two elephants. 

HE most singular inhabitant of Siam, 
and one laying claim to the highest 
praise, is Prince Chou-Faa. Born 
under the most inauspicious star, and 
subject to the jealous eye of the King, 
his every action watched and re- 
ported at court, yet he has contrived 
to find time and opportunity to culti- 
vate his naturally clever mind, till 
he shines forth a perfect wonder of 
education and intellectual attainments. 
He was always kindly disposed towards 
foreigners, but especially towards the English, 
and sought to cultivate the friendship of Mr. 
Hunter, who reciprocated it most cordially. 
From Mr. Hunter the Prince first acquired some 
slight knowledge of the English language, and through his aid 
procured such elementary books as laid the foundation of his 
educational course ; his ardent love of study made him devour 
the contents of these volumes with the greatest avidity, and, not 




88 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

contented with limiting himself to a simple course of instruction, 
he procured books of mathematics and fortification, puzzled his 
brains with gunnery, the art of casting guns and cannons ; and 
eventually, after a wonderful struggle against the many diffi- 
culties that surrounded him amongst which not the least was the 
want of efficient masters, and, indeed, oftentimes any masters at 
all emerged from the shell of a rough, unpolished Siamese, 
into what he was when I was in Siam an indubitably clever 
scholar, and a perfect gentleman. 

His thirst for literature was then greater than ever ; all the 
latest publications he, by means of agents, procured from 
Singapore, and I have seen him laugh as heartily over Dickens's 
" Pickwick," as though he had been accustomed to the scenes 
that book depicts from his earliest youth ; but he frittered not 
his whole time away in the pursuit of any single occupation 
his time was allotted into different portions. The first occu- 
pation of a morning was drilling his small band of artillery 
soldiers. The ground allotted for this practice was just beyond 
the walls of his castle, a level piece of ground running parallel 
with the banks of the river, on which his Majesty, the King, 
had caused some pieces of cannon to be placed, as a wise 
precaution to guard himself from the invasion of foes by water, 
quite forgetting the fact of his own palace, on the opposite side 
of the banks, being just situated in a position to be blown into 
atoms at the first fire. Of course the manoeuvres gone through 
by the Prince's men were entirely harmless, as even blank 
powder was never used, lest the report should shake the nerves 
of his Majesty's fifteen hundred wives, and ruffle his own by no 
means sweetest of dispositions. 

A very ludicrous incident of this description occurred whilst I 
was at Bangkok. The " Sir Walter Scott," one of his Siamese 
Majesty's sloops of war, happened then to be commanded by a 
rather hair- brained Irishman. Eeturning once from a cruise off 
the west coast of Cambogia, and sailing majestically up the river, 
wind and tide in favour, towards her moorings off the palace, 



EFFECTS OF A MAN-OF-WAB's SALUTE. 



89 



and passing Mr. Hunter's house, where the British flag was 
proudly waving, the day being Sunday, she hove back her sails 
all of a sudden, and fired a salute of twenty-one guns ; this 
happened at about one p.m., when most of the inhabitants are 
generally taking a siesta. The effect was most electrical, before 
the echo of the last gun had subsided, the river was thickly 
dotted with canoes, flying in all directions, and running into each 




ESPLANADE AT PRINCE CHOU-FAA'S PALACE. 



other, and causing a hundred other mishaps in their confusion. 
As for the old King, his fear only exceeded his rage ; it was 
with the greatest difficulty he was prevented from inflicting a 

very summary vengeance on Captain M , viz., that of having 

him sent out of the kingdom at a minute's warning. Mr. Hunter, 
however, who was one of the peers of the realm, succeeded in 
assuaging his wrath. 

But to return to the Prince Chou-Faa : he regularly every 
morning went through this mimic exercise, and really, to do him 
credit, with amazing precision. After drill, his little squad 
marched, with himself at the head of them, back to the barracks, 



90 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

which were built within the precincts of the little white-washed 
fortress that surrounded his palace. A halt was called, and the 
soldiers divesting themselves of their uniform, and clad in a 
decidedly light costume, resumed the line of march to that part 
where the Prince had constructed a little armoury, a perfect 
little bijou of a place, so neat and cleanly kept, that the muskets 
and sabres which were therein fantastically arranged, glittered 
again and dazzled one's eyes with their brightness, as the 
morning sun shone in upon them through the open windows. 
All these were brought out and duly scoured ; but such was the 
punctuality of this operation, that the men had but little fatigue, 
in removing whatever stray atoms of dust might have collected 
upon them. This completed their morning's work, and they were 
dismissed to their respective apartments, or to return to their 
floating homes if they chose till the next morning. The Prince 
had some favourites that had picked up a little splattering ot 
English, and assisted him in his more scientific amusements. 
Opposite the armoury, and just on the very threshold of his 
palace, was a very pretty little frame-house, surrounded with 
glass windows, and over the entrance-door to which was placed a 
board with the inscription of " Watches and Clocks made and 
repaired here," written in large letters of gold, and here 
would he be seen, seated at a table that was liberally 
bestrewed with fragments and little mites of wheels, pursuing 
his favourite occupation of watchmaker. It was a strange sight 
in such an out-of-the-way place as Bangkok, and amongst such 
a set of uncouth beings as the Siamese, to come suddenly 
upon the strange figure the Prince presented with a pair of 
huge goggles protruding from his eyes, and surrounded by a 
group of inquisitive and inquiring favourites. Watch-making 
and repairing were generally over about the time that the King's 
trumpet gave notice that he had had breakfast, and then the 
Prince retired to the harem, to partake of that pleasant meal 
also. But he was a frugal man, and was never long seated at 
meals, except upon such occasions as he had any Europeans to 



HABITS OF PRINCE CHOU-FAA. 91 

dine with him, and then he adopted the English fashion of sitting 
long at table. 

Prince Chou-Faa would generally spend an hour or more in 
his library, which was well and even handsomely fitted up, and 
contained some valuable books on various topics of literature 
and science ; and of an evening a little exercise, either on horse- 
back or a row up the river, to inhale the fresh and invigorating 
evening breeze never more precious, or which none can better 
enjoy than those subjected to the relaxing heats of an Indian 
clime. Night closed in, and the Prince, in his brilliantly lighted 
palace, partook of tea and bread and butter, " a VAnglaise" and 
billiards, cards, or bagatelle filled up the vacuum between tea- 
time and ten o'clock, the hour at which Chou-Faa invariably 
retired for the night. Occasionally, an,d especially if any 
Europeans were passing the evening with him, the Prince gave 
us a tune on the flute, for amongst his really manifold accom- 
plishments he was a good musician, and I have heard him 
execute " De con Fe" with variations, in a style to be by no 
means sneered at. 

One might imagine that surrounded as Chou-Faa was with all 
the necessaries, and many of the luxuries of life, he must have been 
a happy and contented man; but those who knew him and 
watched his oft contracted brow could tell a very different tale. 
There was a slumbering sorrow there that would ever and anon 
burst forth like to some troubled dream, and spread a gloom over 
his usually smiling countenance. He evidently strove often and 
hard to overcome the theme that haunted him through day, and 
week, and month, and year ; but it burst forth amidst his 
happiest and most joyous moments, and he felt that, notwith- 
standing all the gaudy tinsel that surrounded him, he was de facto 
a state prisoner, watched and guarded by the hateful eye of 
jealousy, and never for two consecutive moments certain of what 
fate the capricious temperament of the King might doom him to. 
The doctor who, by the King's commands, was dancing perpetual 
attendance at the Prince's heels, and who insisted on the Prince 



92 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

swallowing an allotted allowance of medicine monthly, was an 
all-sufficient drawback to his highness's happiness, and had he 
not possessed that humane, gentle disposition for which he was 
ever distinguished, I imagine this bugbear of a doctor would 
have had to swallow all his own medicine, in addition to something, 
perhaps, not quite so harmless. 

The Prince Chou-Faa was an exceedingly good husband and 
father : his favourite princess, and one or two of the others, often 
in the sacred precincts of the harem, sat down to meals and ate 
with him a fact unprecedented in the kalends of Siamese 
domestic economy. His eldest son, whom he had christened, 
or at least called, Prince George, he was bringing up under 
the iron rod of control, and I have little doubt that (if he be 
alive) he has now . grown up to be a fine, well-educated 
young man. Chou-Faa on several occasions admitted us to 
his harem, and two of his favourite wives used to converse 
with us fluently in English. They could, however, neither read 
nor write. 

On Christmas-day, 1840, the Prince Chou-Faa invited all the 
Europeans then residing at Bangkok to spend the day at his 
palace, and wind up with a grand Christmas dinner, to be served 
at precisely 4 p.m. This invitation included the officers and 
mates of all the merchant vessels then in the river, and the 
American and French missionaries : these latter, however, 
declined the invitation, and it was well they did so, for of all the 
carousals I ever witnessed (and one sees rare specimens of these 
at some of the military messes in India), I never saw one to 
surpass that at Bangkok. The party began arriving at the 
palace at about 10 a.m., and by eleven we were all assembled. 
There happened to be two English vessels in the river at the 
time, and three Bombay traders, and these, in addition to the 
Siamese men-of-war, furnished a pretty decent number of 
Englishmen. I think we sat down to dinner somewhat about 
thirty in number. Amongst the crews of the English vessels we 
mustered a couple of fiddlers, a hautboy, a flute, a fife, and a 



CHRISTMAS IN SIAM. 93 

drummer, and, with this magnificent band, commenced the 
business of the day with the British National Anthem. Every- 
body joined in chorus, and though the music was execrable, and 
the singing alarmingly out of time, we got through it on the 
whole remarkably well. The ladies, or rather princesses, had a 
place partitioned off, through which, by aid of eyelet holes, they 
were spectators of this, to them so novel a spectacle ; and it was 
worth a good deal to see the cats in the palace, tearing about, tail 
up in the air, as the first burst of our discordant orchestra fell 
like a thunder-peal on their astonished and alarmed ears. Jigs, 
reels, country-dances, and Highland flings were all executed to 
admiration, and several who could not dance a reel in the 
morning were seen reeling at a later period of the day. At 
about one o'clock we had a glorious spread in the shape of a 
dejeuner a, la fourchette, laid out in the court-yard under the cool 
shade of apandal, a species of temporary balcony consisting of a 
lot of dried grass introduced between a trellis-work of split 
bamboos, and elevated over head by means of posts driven into 
the ground, to the tops of which the four corners are fastened. 
Champagne ad libitum was poured down our throats, and 
though it was not /rappee it was deliciously cool, from the process 
adopted in India of standing the bottles in saltpetre and salt 
and water. After breakfast we amused ourselves as best we 
could, and even resorted to leap-frog for want of a better amuse- 
ment : the occasional bungling clumsiness of some less skilful 
jumper, who would topple himself and his "back" over, was 
a source of great mirth to the Prince and the other native 
spectators, to whom the game was a perfect novelty, and the 
ill-suppressed titterings behind the screen plainly evinced 
that the ladies were enjoying the fun as much as any of 
us. Our resources at length failing us, and fatigued, and 
weary, we sat down upon the sofas placed around, and then 
the Prince called upon some of his own people to put their 
skill to the test, and keep the ball going, and what think ye 
was the first game they had ? Battledoor and shuttlecock ! 



94 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

but played in such a scientific and skilful way as only the 
Siamese can. 

About thirty young men stood in a circle ; the shuttlecock 
was exactly such an one as we have in England, but the 
battledoor was the sole of the foot ! I never witnessed such 
remarkable agility in my life as was displayed by these lads ; 
one threw the shuttlecock to some one opposite, the young man 
near whom it would threaten to alight instantly prepared 
himself to receive it, and wheeling sharply round, would kick his 
right leg up so scientifically and correctly, that the shuttlecock 
would just alight on the centre of the sole of his foot, and 
rebound with amazing elasticity, being caught by the next 
person it approached in precisely the same style, and in this 
method I have seen the game kept up for nearly a space of ten 
minutes without the shuttlecock once falling to the ground. I 
once attempted to imitate the young Siamese in their method ol 
playing this game, but failed signally in the attempt, though I 
nearly succeeded in putting my ankle out of joint. After this 
there was a good deal of wrestling and gymnastics, and then we 
had a Siamese dance, resembling much in its uncouth gestures 
the savage war dance of the South Sea Islanders. This was 
succeeded by a sham boxing match between two English tars, 
but the Prince had been so liberal in supplying these worthies with 
poteen, that they soon forgot the sham part of the business, and 
set to work in right good earnest, tooth and nail ; and it required 
our conjoint efforts to separate the combatants. The amusements 
of the day concluded with a Chinese theatrical performance, 
a perfect novelty to many of the European spectators present. 
The theatre had been temporarily erected, and there was no 
scenery except the drop scene. In the centre of the stage there 
was a circular tent, or rather the tent walls without the top 
part, or any other covering. This was supposed to represent 
some unknown fortress in some unheard-of land, the gates of 
which were facing the audience. In the distance behind this 
fortress were seen approaching some twenty painted and armed 



CHINESE PLAY. 95 

uncouth-looking warriors ; these were meant to represent a 
besieging army, and inside the fortress were the unhappy besieged 
inhabitants, as yet invisible to us ; but as a matter of course 
undergoing all the frightful privations of a long siege ; at a given 
signal the attack commenced ; the shouting of the approaching 
army, and the beating of gongs was awful in the extreme ; it was 
enough to break the tympanum of the ears, and instinct led us 
simultaneously to cram our fingers into those tender orifices for 
fear of a disastrous result. At length amidst this most unearthly 
riot, out rushed the poor starved garrison, consisting of a very 
old man with a long white woolly beard, who, in a bundle 
suspended to a stick over his shoulders supposed to contain very- 
costly treasures, was bolting from the town, ere the besiegers 
should force an entrance ; then came a very old woman with 
some pots and pans, then a young man with a musket, and a 
young girl with a basket, and then some half-dozen children 
with nothing particular but their ragged clothing, and of this in 
all conscience they possessed little enough. These constituted 
the undauntable garrison of that invincible citadel now about to 
be ransacked by the ruthless besiegers. The besieged fled panic- 
struck in every direction, the citadel was carried by main force, 
and the enemy's army having gained possession, carried off the 
walls victoriously on their shoulders a very delightful, though 
rather unusual method of disposing of a stronghold, and one 
which it would require an army of Atlases to perform. The 
curtain dropped amidst a very whirlwind of applause, and 
shouting ; and this was the first Chinese play I ever witnessed, 
and certainly the last I should ever wish to see, for me- 
thinks a continuation of such noises for a succession of nights 
would render one unfit for anything but Hanwell, Bedlam 
always excepted. 

Dinner was now announced, and we were introduced into an 
apartment which none of us had ever before witnessed, and 
which surpassed in splendour our utmost expectations ; it was 
an elegantly tapestried room, lighted by three costly chandeliers : 



96 EESIDENCE IN S1AM. 

on the sideboard, which was almost entirely of ivory, stood 
several massive and chastely wrought gold and silver vases, 
evidently of Chinese origin, and the centre was occupied by 
a clock representing a crystal fountain, whose waters were 
continually set in motion by the working of the machinery of 
the clock. Against the walls were suspended some very chaste 
oil-coloured views : two in particular invited our admiration ; 
they were called twilight and dawn, and for mellowness of tint 
and softness of outline, I have seldom seen them rivalled. The 
long mahogany table covered with a snow-white damask cloth, 
was literally groaning under the rich display of plate and glass 
ware, and when the covers were removed, the savoury incense 
that steamed up from them made our appetites remember that 
we had not yet dined. A very desirable state of affairs, provided 
such a princely meal were always at one's command. It was, 
indeed, a sumptuous repast ! Most sumptuous. There were 
divers very excellent soups to commence with, and then came 
turkeys, and geese, and ducks, and fowls, and roast sucking 
pigs, and many other incentives to appetite, setting aside that 
best of all Indian luxuries, prawn and rabbit curries ; and we 
looked upon these and partook of them, and sighed to think that 
there was such a thing as to-morrow in the question, with its 
accompanying headaches and indigestions, and that terrible 
drawback to enjoyment to wit the cholera. N'importe, we had 
good wines, aye, the best of old crusty wines, to wash down the 
good things and assist digestion, so I sang to myself like the 
famed Edgardo in the Borgia 

" Non curiamo lincerto domani, 
Si quest oggi ci dato go' dare." 

I believe every one present thought like myself, even the Prince 
included, for we made sad havoc amongst those viands, and as 
for the wines, the port, the golden sherry, the sparkling 
burgundy, it would have been an insult to one's arithmetic, to 
have counted the empty bottles after the dinner was fairly done. 



CHRISTMAS PARTY. 97 

The cloth was removed, the fruits and sweets produced, and 
toasting commenced. Mr. Hunter proposed "the King of 
Siam," which was responded to with three times three. The 
Prince returned thanks, and, in a very neat speech, gave " The 
Queen of Great Britain and Ireland," &c. ; then he rose again to 
propose " The Queen of Portugal," and the Portuguese Consul 
gave " The Prince " himself ; and the enthusiasm with which 
this toast was received must have been very gratifying to his 
feelings, knowing, as he well knew, how universally he was 
respected and esteemed by the Europeans then at Siam. After 
this, there was some more toasting, and any quantity of Maras- 
chino and other liqueurs, and then some of the bolder volunteered 
a song, the Prince, with evident glee, joining in the interminable 
toroloral choruses. 

Chou-Faa, who was then about thirty-eight years of age, and 
wore on that occasion a full-dress naval uniform with epaulettes, 
and buttons on which an elephant figured in lieu of the crown, 
is, or, at least, was, a rather handsome man for a Siamese, of 
middle stature, dark complexion, and an extremely well and 
strongly-built figure. 

At this distant period, I still look back with delight to the 
few pleasant hours of that Christmas spent in a Siamese capital, 
at the hospitable table of a Siamese Prince, and it now appears, 
as it then did to me, almost incredible to think that in the very 
centre of almost savages, and in a land but little heard of or 
known, there is to be found such an enlightened character as the 
excellent Prince Chou-Faa. 

The Prince sent us home at an early hour in his own state- 
barge ; and when the cawings of the thievish crows awoke me 
from my pillow next morning, the events of the preceding day 
appeared like an imaginary phantom, conjured up by some spell 
to puzzle and perplex one for the remainder of our pilgrimage 
on earth. 

Curiosity, assisted by a special permit, induced me once 
during my sojourn at Bangkok, to visit those two most 

H 



98 RESIDENCE IN SJAM. 

remarkable edifices in the whole empire of Siam the Watts or 
Temples of the two White Elephants those most revered of all 
the Siamese deities, and which, as the cross in the Christian and 
the crescent in the Moslem, floats proudly for the Siamese in the 
banner of their nation. An elephant is certainly more terribly 
emblematical of the oppressive yoke of tyranny than anything 




VIEW OF A WATT, OK TEMPLE. 

that I know of ; at least, in my own humble opinion, I would 
rather be trodden under foot by any other quadruped, were I 
reduced to the miserable extremities of such an unenviable 
choice. 

The watts themselves were very fine buildings, replete with all 
the gorgeous beauties of oriental architecture. The first or chief 
watt, the residence of the largest of these two rare and beautiful 
creatures, is situated on' the east bank of the river Meuani, 



THE SACRED ELEPHANTS. 



99 



about half a mile from the shore, and in the centre of a garden, 
deliriously scented with the tube-rose, the yellow honeysuckle, 
and that rare specimen of the passion-flower, called by the 
Siamese the " bisft-jlower" from its very great resemblance to a 
bell. On either side of the watt were two huge Banian trees, 
evidently of long growth, from the great number of shoots that 
had taken firm root in the ground, and were now forming diffe- 
rent and distinct branches of their own. Under these trees, a 
whole posse of Siamese priests, clad in gamboge-dyed dresses, 
were chaunting laudatory verses about the great white elephant, 
and, with the exception of one malevolent glare at us as we 
entered the highly-finished gates of the walls that enclosed the 
gardens of the watts, they took no further notice of our pro- 
ceedings, 'but allowed us to go round the garden unmolested, 
picking such rich bouquets as would make the heart of a ball- 
going young London lady palpitate again with joy and excite- 
ment. After a lapse of about a quarter of an hour, which was 
pleasantly enough spent in surveying the outside of the watt, its 
thousand pretty pedestals, and as many indescribable and 
singular little images, a venerable-looking old fellow, clad in a 
most remarkably brilliant yellow surplice, who wore a smile of 
satisfaction upon his face, which plainly indicated that he had 
been well-fee'd by our attendant Cicerone, came forward and 
offered to conduct us into the presence of White Elephant, the 
senior. We closely followed our guide, and were admitted into 
the presence of this noble animal. I have never before seen so 
large an elephant ; his skin was as smooth and spotless and 
white as the driven snow, with the exception of a large scarlet 
rim round the eyes. The brute was too dignified and accustomed 
to homage to pay the slightest attention to the intrusion of such 
unpresuming visitors as ourselves, but went on calmly helping 
himself to leaves and branches from the mighty piles that were 
heaped up before him. The room itself was an unpresuming 
one, exceedingly lofty, with windows all round the loftiest part ; 
but the flooring was covered with a mat-work, wrought of pure 

H 2 



100 EESTDENCE IN SIAM. 

chased gold, each interwoven seam being about half an inch wide, 
and about the thickness of a half sovereign ! ! ! If this was not sin 
to snakes, as the Yankees say, I don't know what was. The idea 
of a great unwieldy brute, like the elephant, trampling under 
foot and wearing out more gold in one year than many hard- 
working people gain in ten ! And then the soiled mess that this 
costly carpeting was in, in many parts, would have been suffi- 
cient to cause a miser to go off instantly into a fit of insanity. 
Several priests were busily engaged, in different parts of the room, 
polishing up tarnished spots ; others, professionally goldsmiths, 
were extracting the worn strips, and replacing them with new 
ones, so heavy and so bright, that it made our eyes and mouths 
water to see such infamous waste. Every one to his liking, 
however. The sovereigns and potentates of Europe manage to 
make millions slip through their fingers in the pursuits of the 
pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and in indulging every 
appetite that vicious nature can give birth to. The King of Siam 
would doubtless do the same if he could ; but he can't, for this 
simple reason, that so limited are the resources for gratification 
and pleasure, and so cheaply obtainable these few, that his 
Majesty, who does not spend much in wearing apparel, turns his 
treasures into mats for his favourite doll or deity to tread upon. 
The man who was so fortunate as to entrap this elephant, got 
from the King of Siam a pension of one thousand tikols per 
annum, which pension is hereditary ; besides this, he was raised 
to a very high office in the kingdom, that of carrying water for 
the elephant to slake his thirst with ; and the jars in which the 
water is transported, and the trough from which this leviathan 
drinks, are both more or less filagreed and worked with gold. The 
elephants are the only dignitaries connected with the court 
that are permitted to breakfast before his Majesty, and if they 
don't get it early, they roar for it in a very appalling manner. 
The elephant's trumpeting must certainly drown the feeble 
cracked notes of the king's bugler. These creatures seldom or 
never leave their cells except upon stated feast days, when they 



THE SACRED ELEPHANTS. 101 

head a procession that marches round their respective watt some 
half-dozen times, and they are then re-led to their stately 
couch. 

The white elephant junior differed from the white elephant 
senior considerably in size and appearance, and consequently 
luxuriated in silver instead of gold. He was evidently the 
younger son of a junior branch of the family, and was accordingly 
neglected and ill-treated. Even the priests neglected to repair 
the rents in his silver matting, which was fast going to pieces, 
and if one might judge from the meagre and sickly look of the 
poor animal, it was not likely to live long enough to tread upon 
a new. The watt in which this poor brute was confined was 
also insignificant in comparison with the other, and the garden, 
though abounding with flowers, was evidently ill looked after 
and neglected. This problem is easily solved by the fact, that 
the king is in the daily habit of attending the other watt, and 
his fifteen hundred wives supply themselves with bouquets 
therefrom ; whereas this watt has never seen the stout shadow 
of His Majesty since the first installation of the ill-conditioned 
elephant. 




102 



RESIDENCE IX SI AM. 



CHAPTEK VII. 

t'hanti Boon. Its situation and buildings. Account of the attempt of a Chinese 
Captain to run away with a richly laden Siamese Government trader. Mode of 
conducting business at Chanti Boon. Adventure with the Siamese officer of 
Customs. Monkeys and snakes. Description of the country. Siamese cookery. 
The White Ant and the Cobra di Capello. Use of the ant hills by the latter. 
Feeding of the Cobra by the natives. Tringano. Passage across Siamese 
Gulf. Encounter with a whirlwind. Bardia. Champoon. Effect of a salute of 
twenty-one guns. Collection of tribute from the Rajah. Return voyage. 







HANTI Boon is beyond a doubt 
situated in one of the wealthiest 
provinces of Siam. Insignificant 
in appearance and size, the only 
buildings of note in the town con- 
sist of a watt with a remarkably 
elegant spire, and a huge go- 
vernment magazine for the ware- 
housing of the more valuable 
products, which are bi-annually 
shipped to Bangkok for sale and 

exportation. In the intervals between the two monsoons, 
Siamese ships of war and junks, with government super- 
cargoes, are employed on this service, as the cargoes 
are of too valuable a nature to be entrusted to the 
Chinese or other traffickers. These could easily smuggle 
portions of the ivory, gamboge, spices, &c., on board vessels 
lying at anchor along the coast or off the bar of Siam, where 
they could be readily and advantageously disposed of ; and 



CHANT! BOON. 10"> 

should a Chinese junk once contain so valuable and costly a 
freight, the chances are ten to one that she would take a directly 
opposite direction to Bangkok, and proceed with all available 
dispatch to Singapore or Canton, or for whichever port the wind 
chanced to be favourable ; and the funds obtained by the 
disposal of one single cargo would enable the runaways to be 
independent for life, and quitting the sea, to enjoy their otiwm, 
cum dig. in undisturbed tranquillity on shore. An instance of 
this kind, I was informed, had occurred many years before my visit 
to Siam, which, however, fortunately for the Siamese govern- 
ment, had ended in the recapture of the fugitive junk, which was 
reconducted to Bangkok, and there confiscated. The affair 
happened thus. The Siamese government being anxious before 
the setting in of the monsoon to clear the warehouse at Chanti 
Boon of all the produce of that season, and being short of ships 
of their own nation to import it into Bangkok, were compelled to 
charter several small foreign vessels for this purpose, and amongst 
others a Chinese junk, the owner and captain of which had been 
for many years a regular trader to Bangkok, and who was 
reported to be a most honest and upright man. Accordingly, 
being duly arrived and anchored off the little island of Semsing, 
at the mouth of the Chanti Boon river, a distance of about 
twenty miles from the town, boats were despatched to bring off 
the cargo, and the Chinaman was at work, morning, noon, and 
night, endeavouring to be loaded as quickly as possible, so as to 
be away before the coming monsoon. His cargo consisted 
almost entirely of ivory, gamboge, and cardamums. The inde- 
fatigable zeal of the captain so impressed the Siamese authorities 
on board (of whom there were three) in his favour, that they 
placed the most implicit confidence in his integrity ; and before 
the vessel was entirely laden, quitted the irksome office of 
keeping tally, to relax themselves by a walk, or a shooting party 
on shore. The old captain was as punctual as clockwork in 
handing over a correct list of what had been shipped each day to 
the functionaries when they came on board of an evening ; and 



304 RESIDENCE IN STAM. 

as these latter were very regular in obtaining this information 
from the shippers on shore before coming off, they found, on 
comparing notes, that both sides perfectly agreed as to quantity, 
&c. ; a state of affairs highly gratifying to their feelings, and 
which led them to make to the fat old skipper many stout 
promises of rewards and honours to be heaped upon him on their 
safe return to Bangkok by their august master, His Majesty the 
King of Siam. The Chinaman used to chuckle at these rewards 
in perspective amazingly ; and finally, having laden a full and 
complete cargo of costly materials, proposed to those high func- 
tionaries that they should celebrate the occasion by a species 
of jubilee, to be held on shore at the small and almost deserted 
village of Paknam, near Chanti Boon.* Well, no sooner said 
than done, the proposal was jumped at by the Siamese dignitaries, 
and half-a-dozen ducks, a couple of fowls, and a pig fell victims 
to their ambition for pleasure parties. It is needless to say that 
that indispensable article of allpic-nics, spirits,weYe handed round 
and partaken ad libitum, and of all vile potations, that vilest, called 
samshoe a spirit distilled from rice, and which is more speedy 
and certain in its destructive and intoxicating effects than all the 
rum and brandy in the universe put together. Merrily the 
bowl passed round, and the feast continued with unalloyed 
enjoyment till nigh upon sunset. Then the effects of the merry- 
making became distinctly visible from the decks of the junk, 
where the sober and clear-headed crew, under instructions from 
their captain, were attentively watching the issue of events. 
Presently one man got up, and staggered, and fell against his 
neighbour, rolling the latter over in his fall. These two were 
settled for the night, nothing under a miracle could awaken 
them to a sense of consciousness. The third and sole remaining 
officer seeing the mishap, which was in all probability, in the 



* It is strange that the first town on entering the Menam is also called Paknam, 
and from this circumstance, and the word " Onam " meaning water, in Siamese, I am 
led to suppose that the name must have some relative signification to the position of 
the two villages. 



CHINESE SEIZURE OF A JUNK. 105 

then addled state of his brain, metamorphosed into a mighty 
combat between countless warriors that were swimming around 
him, shouted lustily for aid, and with one mighty effort leapt 
to his feet only to feel his head seized with an overpowering 
giddiness, which felled him to the earth as a butcher fells an 
ox. This was the signal for activity on board the junk ; the 
boat was lowered and manned ; the captain, who still retained 
his senses (for he could drink any dozen ordinary men under 
the table, or, more properly speaking in this instance, upon the 
grass), was rowed safely on board, the land-wind set in as the 
night closed round, the anchor was weighed, and over that dark 
sea, with a favouring breeze, the junk sped rapidly on towards 
not Bangkok, but Singapore ! What became of the three wretched 
men who were left on that desolate island is more than I can 
divine, not the slightest clue having been ever obtained as to 
their fate. They dared not show themselves at Chanti Boon or 
Bangkok, where their doom, they well knew, was a lingering 
but certain death. As to the junk, it arrived safely at Singapore, 
and things went on prosperously enough with the Chinaman 
and his crew, till one morning, by some unlucky accident, 'a 
Siamese cruiser came into the harbour, and the commander 
recognising the vessel, went on board to claim acquaintance with 
his old friend, the skipper, when, to his utter astonishment, he 
found the decks strewed with produce, the loss of which had 
been reported to him by a vessel he had encountered at sea 
bound from Siam to China. The Chinese, conscious of their 
guilt, though the Siamese captain made no allusion to the event, 
wisely effected their escape to shore, so soon as darkness sheltered 
them ; and not long after the commander of the Siamese ship 
of war, accompanied by an armed force, boarded the junk, and 
finding her entirely deserted, got his own ship under weigh, and 
without resistance towed the junk out to sea ; then manning 
her from picked men out of his own crew, the junk sailed in 
convoy of the cruiser direct for Bangkok, where in due course 
they arrived, to the infinite satisfaction of the Siamese monarch, 



106 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

who liberally remunerated the officers and men of the lucky 
cruiser. 

From that date suspicion has ever been on the alert as regards 
strangers of all nations, and now-a-days no freights are brought 
from Chanti Boon except on board of a Siamese vessel of war, 
and even then innumerable emissaries accompany the ships. 
The Sir Walter Scott was sent on this mission when I was at 
Bangkok, and I accompanied her more out of curiosity than 
from any other motive. A fine fresh breeze came off the land 
at about eight p.m., and we weighed and made all possible 
Hail, keeping as near the land as safety would permit. The 
water was smooth, and the moon shone brightly as we glided 
swiftly but almost imperceptibly through the water. The 
distance from the anchorage to Cape Liant is exactly sixty 
miles, just one degree, and we were abreast of this Cape by 
seven o'clock in the morning. By hugging close under the 
shore, we kept a pretty stiff land-breeze with us all the 
way ; and when the Cape was abaft the beam, we hauled 
the vessel up, and took in her studding-sails, steering a 
nearly due East course. The wind never failed us till 
about noon, when we were nearly abreast of the island of 
Koh Samet, an island twenty-five miles distant from Cape 
Liant, and from which, to the anchorage off Semsing, at the 
mouth of the river of Chanti Boon, there yet remained a distance 
of forty-five miles to accomplish. The calm was intense, and 
the heat stifling, whilst myriads of annoying flies and stinging 
gnats came buzzing in idle circles round our heads. This state 
of affairs continued till four o'clock, when the first puff of the 
welcome sea breeze, that for more than an hour had been 
tantalising us by rippling the cool-looking blue waves in the 
distance beyond the Cape, came like a gentle angel, whispering 
comfort to our parched and fevered frames. The yards were 
soon braced round, and in half an hour's time we were once more 
sporting merrily through the waves ; but the sun set, and the 
night came on, and the moon shone again calmly on the waters, 



MORNING AT CHANTI BOON. 107 

and we had yet a good half degree to make before arriving at 
the anchorage ; so I went to bed, and the only thing that dis- 
turbed my slumbers that night was the shaking of the ship 
as the heavy chain rattled heavily over her bows, sure and happy 
intimation that the careful navigator had brought the ship safely 
to her journey's end. 

I turned out next morning, ripe with expectation, and went 
on deck. The cool, perfumed morning air was delightful and 
invigorating ; the gentle murmuring of the waves as they 
rippled over the pebble-strewed beach, was soft, pleasant music to 
the ear. The solemn silence that reigned around was only inter- 
rupted by the occasional scream of the sea-hawk, or the splash 
of the waters as the keen-eyed kingfisher plunged into the wave 
in pursuit of its morning's meal. The scenery around was wild 
and picturesque ; and the lofty three-hundred-peaked mountains 
in the distance, seemed to verge imperceptibly into the cloudless 
azure skies of that clime. Beyond this, there was nothing ! 
no stir of life, no boats, no ships not even a fisherman : but 
there was a quiet, happy, peaceful charm about the place at 
that early hour of the day, that made one, not sad, but pensive, 
and turned stray thoughts from the current of their every- 
day worldly course, into a channel more meet for mankind ; it 
brought the creature to think of the Creator, and lifted up the 
soul to exclaim with the psalmist, " O Lord, how manifold are 
thy works ! in wisdom hast thou made them all. The earth is 
full of thy riches." 

After breakfast, the best boat in the ship was rigged out as a 
cutter, and the captain, supercargoes, and myself, set sail in her 
for the town of Chanti Boon. There were two channels round 
the island, which is situated exactly opposite to the mouth of 
the river, and the tide was running round either side like a 
perfect sluice. We had quite a job to keep the boat from being 
stranded ; and it required the combined force of the sails and 
oars to keep us anywhere near mid-channel ; but when we once 
got fairly round the island, then we were swept with amazing 



108 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



velocity right into the centre of the river, and so floated up. 
The land at the entrance was very low, marshy ground, teeming 
with rank weeds and innumerable noisy croaking frogs. Now 
and then a solitary crane poked his astonished head over the 
grass, and, sadly alarmed at such an apparition as a boat, gave 
utterance to a croak of surprise, and flew heavily across the 
river to the opposite side. In the midst of all this desolation, 







ENTKANCE TO CHANTI BOON RIVER. 



was one solitary miserable hut, perched high up in the air on 
the stumps of four very lofty cocoa-nut trees ; and at the door 
of this hut, when we passed, was seated its sole occupant and 
lord and master, an old shrivelled-up man, with hardly a rag to 
cover his nakedness, and who, to all appearance, had planted 
himself there about the same period that the trees which sup- 
ported his cabin had sprung up, and had simultaneously with 



THE GUARDIAN OF THE RIVEE. 109 

them gone to decay. He was busily engaged pounding up the 
betel-nut composition for mastication (for he and his teeth had 
long since parted company) when we first saw him, but no 
sooner did he catch a glimpse of our boat than he seemed, as if 
by inspiration, to be endowed with all the energies of a lad of 
sixteen ; he flung away his betel-nut, slipped down the ladder 
with marvellous celerity, flew to his little canoe, launched, and 
was busy paddling after us, in less time than it has taken me to 
write this. Loudly and authoritatively did he shout to us to 
stop ; and when at last, for sheer curiosity's sake, we hove the 
boat to, to hold parley with him, the fierce little old fellow, so 
soon as he had recovered his breath, attacked us like a royal 
tiger. " What ! " said he, " do you Franks dare to break the 
laws of this country, and set my authority at defiance, in broad 
daylight 1 I, who am the custom-house officer and reporter- 
general, without whose permit no one is allowed to pass up this 
river ! I have three loaded muskets," said he, holding up his 
fingers to indicate that there was no mistake about their 
number, " and it's a mercy that in my anger I did not fire upon 
and kill you all ! " Excessive was the old man's wrath to find 
that we were highly amused, and laughed at his threats. After 
a little while, however, he saw it was useless, and so went on 
another tack, begging and imploring us not to go up before he 
had reported our arrival to the governor ; for although it was 
simply a form to be gone through, still the non-performance of 
this office might cost him his post, and that would break his 
heart ; for apart from his having no means to support himself, 
and being without friends or family, twenty years' usage had so 
accustomed him to the dear cot on that lovely spot he inhabited, 
that his being separated from and obliged to quit it, would 
bring his grey head in sorrow down to the mud, and cause him 
to lie down and die amidst his bosom friends and old compa- 
nions, the frogs. Compassionating the poor old fellow, we 
agreed to take him on board of our boat, and tow his little 
canoe up with us till within a short distance of Chanti Boon, 



110 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

when we would despatch him ahead, and land, and breakfast 
somewhere on the banks of the river, till his return. 

No monkey or parroquet was ever more chatty or noisy 
than this old worthy. He gave us to understand that all the 
twenty years that he had been in that hut, he had never had 
any friendly intercourse with human beings ; relatives he had 
none ; he was generally wont of a morning to sally forth in 
his canoe and reconnoitre the anchorage, but by some strange 
hazard he had this day put off his diurnal trip, perfectly 
persuaded in his own mind that no stranger had arrived, 
for ships had never during his experience touched at this 
point, and junks always announced their near approach by the 
most frightful dinning noise of gongs ; hence his surprise was 
only to be equalled by his consternation when he first caught 
sight of our vessel. Strange old piece of humanity ! His 
salary was somewhere about a ticol a month, equal to half-a- 
crown sterling, and upon this and the occasional charity of 
passers-by, he had long subsisted, but then he was cunning in 
herbs and knew where to go in the forest to look for wild yams 
and other roots, and not unfrequently in these foraging excur- 
sions he stumbled across a wild boar, and sometimes a bear ; 
the sole inmates of his hut, he assured us, were an old cat and 
a tame rat. Fowls he had given up keeping, for they used to 
stray away from his vast domain, and get whipped off by hungry 
jackals, or the wild cat of the jungle. The greatest imaginable 
boon that could be conferred upon this old fellow was tobacco, 
and powder and shot. The former he smoked incessantly ; the 
latter brought him in an occasional meal of meat, and he had 
only to watch from his cabin door of a morning, just about 
daybreak, when all the wild fowl of the jungle came down to the 
water's edge to quench their thirst, to enable him with facility 
to get a good shot at a partridge, or what is better still, a fine 
jungle cock. He was also an expert fisherman, so that the only 
provisions he laid by in store were rice, ghee (melted butter), 
onions, garlic, and salt those five indispensables of an Oriental's 



AKRIVAL AT CHANT! BOON. Ill 

life. The jungle afforded him firewood enough to roast himself with, 
and the river quenched his thirst ; he assured us he had never 
known an hour's sickness during the long period of his hermitage, 
and hardly a moment's discontent, though it was by no means an 
uncommon event when he was coiled up in his corner of a 
night to hear the grievous roar of angry tigers contesting under 
his cabin for the booty afforded by some luckless stag, or a wild 
goat that had been caught at the water's side. As for snakes, 
the description he gave of those he had seen was marvellous in 
the extreme, and though doubtless he exaggerated as to size, 
&c., I have little doubt in my own mind but that some very ugly 
customers of this species infested the jungles around. A sure 
sign of this was the entire absence of monkeys, though the 
interior was infested with them. Monkeys like not the vicinity 
of serpents, and I have seen them almost go into fits from exces- 
sive alarm at the sight of even a dead snake. Thus the old man 
enlivened us with tales of his life and adventures, and our little 
boat progressed rapidly up the stream ; the banks were thickly 
set with mangroves, and there was a species of wild jessamine 
whose blossom was very delightful, and attracted swarms of bees 
and very many beautiful butterflies. We could see nothing of 
the country around us from our low position, and the trip would 
have been tedious indeed had it not been for the engaging tales 
of the queer little old custom-house officer. At length we came 
in sight of the tall elegant spire of the distant watt at Chanti 
Boon, which was glistening like a diadem of precious stones in 
the sunlight ; five minutes more sailing brought us to a fine open 
part of the country where the embankments of the river were 
higher than heretofore, and where lofty tamarind trees grew in 
abundance. Selecting the most shady of these, we landed, and* 
having dispatched the old man in his diminutive canoe to 
announce our advent, we bethought ourselves of breakfast, and 
had it forthwith. The neighbouring country was richly cultivated 
and strictly guarded, for several of the plants and trees in the 
neighbourhood were of that class that yield costly gums, amongst 



112 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

others the gamboge, benzoin, or frankincense ; owing to this, riot 
a cow or any kind of cattle was seen grazing on the rich pasturage, 
which was profuse indeed, lest they might injure the valuable 
trees, some of which were saplings that had not long since been 
planted. The guards, however, were permitted to allow their 
ponies to graze on these plots, securing them by a chain fastened 
round the right forefoot and riveted to a peg driven firmly into 
the ground. 

I never saw a country in every respect more fitted for the 
rearing of the silk-worm than the district of Chanti Boon. 
The fine alluvial soil was just what would nurture the white 



igg===s=" 




VIEW OF CHANTI BOON. 



mulberry, and cause it to attain to great perfection of growth ; 
and the climate in the spring (the period when we visited it,) 
,was just of that temperature that would best suit the delicate 
and cautiously reared silk-worm. I am confirmed in this 
opinion since visiting the silk-reeling districts in Syria, where 
the worms are oftentimes exposed to those sudden transitions 
in climate which are altogether unknown in such latitudes as 
Chanti Boon. 



SIAMESE COOKERY. 113 

In due time the ogre of a custom-house officer returned with a 
permit, and if the governor imagined at the time that he granted 
it that we were on board of the vessel, he must certainly 
have been unfeignedly surprised to see us so soon make our 
appearance at his residence. The governor's house was 
pleasantly situated on the banks of the river, and commanded 
a fine view of the surrounding country. Unlike the other 
houses of officials that we had visited in Siam, this one was 
remarkable for its cleanliness ; and the few nights that we slept 
on shore we revelled in the rare luxury of unexceptionable clean 
bed linen. Of all Oriental cookery, however, the Siamese is the 
most execrable and unwholesome ; not from the want of the 
wherewithal to cook (for most certainly the pork and poultry 
were remarkably fine), but from want of savoir faire, and from 
the abominable practice they have of eating pickled garlic, and 
flavouring all their dishes strongly with this unsavoury condiment. 

Our reception by the Governor of Chanti Boon was vastly 
different to that afforded to the Pdre Fontenoy, who accompanied 
Tachard on his embassy to Siam in 1685, just one hundred and 
fifty-six years before my visit to that country. Fontenoy went 
to Chanti Boon, accompanied by some brother Jesuits : he found 
the town some way inland from the banks of the river. It is 
now built almost over the water. The very climate and nature 
of the place seem to have changed, for he talks of the country 
being flooded for half the year, whereas inundations are now of 
rare occurrence ; in short, the only thing that seems to have kept 
pace with time are the mosquitoes, of which I had amply 
disagreeable proof, and of which Fontenoy complains most 
bitterly. 

" Chanti Boon," says the same author, " is situated at the foot 
of one of that long range of mountains which separates the 
kingdom of Siam from that of Cambogia," On the side on 
which the Jesuit party entered it was fortified by an old wooden 
fortress, more fit, observes Fontenoy, to serve as a protection 
from the invasion of wild beasts than to serve as a resistance 

i 



I 14 RESIDENCE IN STAM. 

against the attack of organised troops. Now-a-days, it has 
become a quiet, thriving, populous mercantile town, every one 
in and about it wearing the look of affluence and contentment ; 
and such soldiers as reside in the district, or are in cantonment 
in town, make oftener use of their arms in making those stabs 
from which the gum called gamboge exudes than in injuring 
either friend or foe. The natural barrier formed by the lofty 
range of mountains in the immediate vicinity of Chanti Boon, is 
a safeguard against the pillaging attacks of the Cochin Chinese, 
for which the Siamese ought to be very thankful ; for without 
this nothing but a remnant of the large revenue annually yielded 
would ever enter the Government treasury. 

The neighbourhood of Chanti Boon abounds with wild 
elephants, tigers, chetahs, and a vast variety of wild beasts, 
reptiles, and insects ; of the two latter the most destructive 
being the cobra de capella and the Indian white ant, the 
former fatal to the life of man, the latter to his household 
goods and chattels. 'Tis strange how the cobra de capella 
avails itself of the industry of that most destructive of all 
destructive creatures, the white ant. White ants in hordes innu- 
merable, with amazing alacrity, sometimes in the course of a 
single night, raise up a fabric for their own habitations, and 
to serve as warehouses for their winter provision of food, often 
more than two feet high and full twelve feet in diameter. 
These ant-hills are pierced with an innumerable number of 
holes, each hole leading to a different department or suite of 
chambers. On first being raised, this mound of earth is of a 
very fragile nature, and easily demolished ; but a few days 
baking in the hot sun makes it become so hard and strong, 
as to be quite proof against the heaviest showers of rain, and to 
resist many a hard blow from a pickaxe. But before it assumes 
this consistence, the wary cobra, who is on the look-out for nice 
airy apartments for his wife and expected family, and is too 
indolent or unskilled to labour for himself, coolly takes pos- 
session of the ant-hill, and whilst it is in a yet mouldable 






THE COBRA DE CAPELLA. 115 

condition, carves out for himself a large space, in which he 
thenceforward takes up his position. The moment this unwel- 
come intruder presents himself, the ants decamp, leaving him in 
undisturbed possession of their labours. Whenever a Hindoo or 
a native of Chanti Boon observes one of these moulds erected 
in a place unpleasantly close to his own domicile, he carefully 
watches it till he can trace symptoms of the cobra having 
entered into possession, and then he and his neighbours instantly 
set to work to construct a strong fence all round it, which is so 
thickly set with thorn bushes as to render all egress impossible. 
The snake has no chance of escaping without being impaled, 
and would consequently die of starvation were it not for the 
superstitious creed of its incarcerators. These latter make it 
a religious point of duty to supply the venomous brute each 
morning with milk, and eggs, and other similar dainties ; and 
in the course of a week or ten days, the cobras, male and female, 
become so accustomed to regular hours, that, punctual to the 
minute, they may be seen peeping out of their respective holes, 
in quiet expectation of their breakfast ; and in a very short 
time they will, without evincing any signs of fear, come forth 
and partake of the good things let down to them in the presence 
of ever so many spectators. So much for the belief in the 
transmigration of souls a creed highly beneficial to snakes and 
other nauseous reptiles, who, but for this, as the population 
spread in the East, would be in the course of time utterly 
exterminated. Both Siamese and Indians have a strange notion 
with regard to snails ; they pretend to be able to track a snake 
by them, " for," say they, " they are the snakes' water-carriers^ 
and wherever you see the track of a snail on the ground, be sure 
that a cobra is not far off." 

Fontenoy, in speaking of the ants that infest this part of Siam, 
says : " The ants- which in Europe construct their dwellings 
under the earth and retire to them during winter, make their 
nests and store their provisions in Siam at the tops of the trees, 
so as to preserve them from the inundations which cover 

i 2 



116 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

the earth during five or six months of the year." It was an 
error to attribute to the floods this peculiarity in the construc- 
tion of these ants' nests. There are many different qualities or 
sects of ants in India ; and the class here particularly referred 
to is to be found on the highest as well as lowest ground in 
India and Siam. The ant that inhabits trees is of a dirty red 
colour, and possessed of a wofully sharp sting, which makes the 
wound smart again, as I well know to my cost, and leaves a 
white bump on the injured part, which smarts and itches alter- 
nately for several hours after the wound is inflicted. These ants 
are invariably found on mango and other fruit trees, and are 
most destructive enemies to the fruit ; their nests are conveni- 
ently situated in the branches of the tree, and are composed of 
two large leaves stitched together in a very surprising manner. 
I have oftentimes mistaken these nests for those of that beautiful 
little bird, the purple honeysucker, and had my thirst for birds- 
nesting severely checked and punished by the fiery, venomous 
little occupants. All trees yielding gums are also a favourite 
resort of these red ants, and planters and gardeners are obliged to 
resort to pitch, which they lay thickly over the stem of valuable 
trees, to save the fruit and gum from destruction. I can easily 
understand that Fontenoy should attribute the habits of this 
little insect to wonderful instinct ; for he sought in everything 
he did or saw, to render praise to the Creator of the Universe ; 
at least, I am led to suppose so from the following passages 
that occur in his travels, when, after undergoing every imagin- 
able privation and ill, he was compelled to travel barefooted over 
brambles and thorns, on his way from Chanti Boon to a village 
near Bangkok. " II falloit," he exclaims, " marcher par les bois 
ou les occasions de souffrir ne nous manquerent pas. Mais nous 
apprimes en meme-tems que ce n'est pas une chose bien difficile 
d* alter pieds nuds parmi les cailloux, quand on se propose la gloire 
de Dieu dans ce genre de vie" 

We visited the warehouse, where we found men, women, and 
children hard at work, picking, sorting, and packing cardamums ; 



VOYAGE TO TKINGANO. 117 

others, again, were weighing the ivory and gamboge, and a few 
carrying down what was ready for shipment to the boats, and the 
whole presented a busy and pleasing tableau that one could 
hardly hope to see in so outlandish a place as Chanti Boon. 

About three days before the Sir Walter Scott had finished 
loading the produce of Chanti Boon, at Lemsing, for Bangkok, the 
Siamese frigate, Victory, called in to see how affairs were 
getting on, and to get water and provisions on board : her ulti- 
mate destination was Tringano, the chief town of a province of 
that name, situated on the east coast of the Malayan Peninsula, 
in about 5 20' North (almost in a parallel with the Island of 
Penang), and 103 00' East. This province had long been tribu- 
tary to Siam, and the Victory was about to proceed there to 
collect the annual taxes, but it was Captain S.'s intention to 
visit and explore several of the islands and harbours on the 
west coast of the Gulf before proceeding to Tringano ; and as he 
knew that I was very partial to sketching, after my own uncouth 
fashion, he kindly offered me a passage on board of his vessel, 
which offer I gladly availed myself of. We accordingly sailed 
from Lemsing, and steered a direct course across the gulf towards 
Pulo Bardia and Champon, in the province of Champon. I 
should have been sorry, indeed, to have found myself in the 
vicinity of these places in anything but a well-armed and ad- 
mirably disciplined man-of-war both of which was the case with 
the Victory which, from being the crack ship in the Siamese 
service, had a crew of picked and chosen men and officers, and 
everything on board, from the guns to the marline spikes, were 
'the best of their sort procurable. The Siamese Gulf is at all 
times a turbulent one : I never made a trip of a week's duration 
without encountering violent squalls, if not a gale. On our 
passage to Pulo Bardia, just as we had got about half way 
across the gulf, we were taken aback one morning by one of 
those violent whirlwind squalls, known in India by the significant 
name of " Pishash" which means in our vernacular his satanic 
majesty. Lucky, indeed, it is that they are so swift upon the 



118 RESIDENCE IN S1AM. 

wing, that you are hardly aware of their presence before they 
have passed on miles away ; it is but the work of a minute, but 
during that minute the confusion and mischief that ensue are 
almost incredible. There were we, for instance, gliding peacefully 
through the water, the waves as calm and contented as our own 
consciences, for we had just come up from a very excellent 
breakfast. The man at the wheel was indolently looking up at 
the main royal haulyards, on which a couple of Java sparrows 
were endeavouring to gain a footing. The captain walked the 
poop in the quiet enjoyment of his after-breakfast cigar. I was 
sitting under the poop-awning trying to sketch off the old 
Chinese carpenter, whilst that inoffensive and unconscious 
individual, lost in contemplation and the huge brim of a large 
straw hat, was leaning over the starboard bulwark gazing in- 
tently into the sea. The serang was busy forward instructing 
the younger hands in the art of splicing and reeving. The 
tindal was trying to catch fish ; one or two men were up aloft 
greasing the masts and tarring the rigging. The black cook, in 
the blacker-looking galley, was turning white like iron from 
heat, and fanning himself with the wing of a chicken that he had 
just slaughtered. The officer of the w r atch was out on the bow- 
sprit ; and a couple of pigs that were permitted to run about 
the decks had found a nice cool berth under the shady side of the 
galley. As for the poultry in the long boat, they were perfectly 
overcome by the heat, and no sound issued from their retreat, 
save the occasional squeak of some unlucky chicken that had 
foolishly trusted itself within reach of the beak of a spiteful hen. 
Jacko was seated in the stern sheets, busily occupied in pulling 
to pieces the rim of an old straw hat, and a veteran old cock that 
had escaped from his prison in a hencoop, was quietly perched 
on one leg on the side of the long boat, nodding drowsily. This 
was the quiet state of affairs on the morning in question, when 
without the slightest warning, there burst upon the ship a 
terrific whirlwind. The Chinaman was the first to feel it. I 
saw him turn as pale as a ghost, and at that instant his hat went 



EFFECTS OF A WHIRLWIND. 1]9 

flying merrily over the side. There was a noise such as never 
was heard even in Noah's ark wind howling, sails flapping, 
spars cracking, blocks falling, men shouting, pigs squealing, 
fowls cackling, Jacko screaming a confused uproar of sounds, 
and every body holding on tight to something or other, under 
the firm persuasion that that alone could save them. A minute 
and half a minute and it was all over all three top-gallant masts 
sprung flying jibboom in the w r ater, jib in tatters mainsail 
split three topsails in same lamentable condition cook under 
galley-fire Chinaman stranded on a cable the old cock over- 
board and self under poop-awning, holding on to the broom, 
which, in the hurry of the moment, I had fondly imagined to be 
the strong brass railing of the poop. It was some few minutes 
before we knew exactly whether we were standing on our heads 
or our heels ; but when we did recover our senses, so ludicrous 
was the position in which each one found himself, and saw his 
neighbour, that it was impossible to resist a simultaneous roar 
of laughter. The jiamages were soon repaired, for spare spars 
and sails were not wanting on board the Victory ; and three 
days after this accident, we came to an anchor between Pulo 
Bardia and Champoii in seven and a half fathoms clear water, 
with a fine clay bottom. 

On the west side of Pulo Bardia, and just opposite to the town 
of Champon, is situated a large and thriving village, the inhabi- 
tants of which we found to be a civil, obliging, and industrious 
people. Their farm-yards were well stocked with pigs, poultry, 
goats, and even a few cows. We never wanted for fresh eggs, or 
milk, or butter during our stay. The men were better-looking 
than the general run of Malays, and some of the women and girls 
were really remarkably handsome, possessing not the slightest 
cast of a Malay profile, and with figures that were most unex- 
ceptionable ; but this, I imagine, arises from the natives of 
Champon having intermarried with Tenessareiie men and 
women : many of the latter are descended from Indian castes, 
such as Gentoos, &c., and the Gentoos, though dark, have, with 



120 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



very few exceptions, handsome and regular features and fine 
commanding figures. In Bardia, we found vegetables plentiful 
and cheap ; flowers grew wild and abundant, and I seldom saw a 
more beautiful collection of birds, butterflies, and moths than 




PULO BARDIA. 



those that we collected at Bardia. Champon is situated about 
seven miles up the river Tayung. We visited the town two or 
three times, and purchased of the natives a vast variety of skins, 
some of which were rare and handsome, especially those of the 
squirrel tribe. I imagine that the Tayung river might easily be 
rendered navigable for vessels of a moderate tonnage right up to 
Eindony on the West Coast ; and if this could be accomplished 
it would cut off a great circuit for vessels bound from China to 
Calcutta and Madras. 



PULO BAKDIA AND CHAMPION. 



121 



We remained a fortnight at Pulo Bardia, and then coasted 
along towards Tringano, passing Sancori and Carnom point, and, 
the wind proving fair, we went right through the Channel, 
between Ligor and the Island of Tantalem, in some parts 
rather dangerous navigation, owing to sunken rocks ; but our 
scrany had often been through before in smaller craft, and he 




undertook to pilot the vessel. The scenery on both sides was 
very grand. On the old Ligor coast the bold lofty range of 
mountains contrasted finely with the low rich fertile ground of 
Tantalem : then there was a fine creek or river off Talung ; and 
about four in. the evening we hove-to, off Sangora, which town, 
much to the terror of the inhabitants, we saluted with twenty- 
one guns. The roar of the cannon was echoed and re-echoed in 
every direction. No sooner had the last sound died away in the 
distance, than the old Eajah put off in his state barge and came 
alongside to inquire into the cause of the hubbub, and his alarm 



122 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



was changed into great joy and gratification when Captain S. 
informed him that the salute was intended for himself (the 
Rajah). He pressed us very much to land, but the wind was 
too favourable to lose, so simply begging of him to forward our 
letters that we entrusted to his care, overland to Queda and 










SANGORA. STRAITS OF TANTALUM. 



Penang, we braced up again to the breeze, and, rounding the 
Cape, opposite to Lan Sun, stood out for Pulo Lozin, so as to 
have a fair offing to chase us off Cape Patani. The Victory 
sailed like a witch on a wind, and we had a fine stiff breeze that 
night that made her dance again over the water. She completely 
ran away with us, and the morning watch immediately after 
being called gave the alarm, much to the captain's astonishment, 
of land on the larboard bow. According to his reckoning we 
should have sighted the island at daybreak, instead of which, 
when day broke, there was Pulo Lozin far away on our stern. 
Being perfectly satisfied on this point, the vessel was eased off 
gradually till the wind was right astern, and then, with studding 



STORM OFF TK1NGANO. 



sails below and aloft, we stood directly for the passage between 
Pulo Santingo and the Great Eedang. As the day grew the wind 
increased, until it settled into a perfect gale. One by one the 




WORKING THROUGH PULO SAXTINGO AND GREAT REDANG. 



sails were taken in and reefed, till we were reduced to two close 
reefed topsails. The ship rolled mightily through the heavy 
tempestuous billows : at noon we sighted the Great Eedang ; at 
half-past three we entered the Channel, still rolling heavily ; 
and at six in the evening we came to an anchor, under the lee 
of a small island off the coast of Tringano. Next morning the 
weather was calm, and we proceeded on to the town, a distance 
of about twenty-five miles from our anchorage. We arrived at 
noon, and much to my disappointment I found on landing that 
the Eajah had prepared the tithes, presents, &c., against our 
arrival, so that we had nothing to detain us but to get a few 



124 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

provisions and some water on board. We had a ramble over the 
town ; it was neatly enough constructed, and the environs 
abounded with beautiful fruit gardens. The natives, both men 
and women, were handsome and robust, and seemed very happy 
and contented. We dined at the Eajah's that evening, and 
visited the long store-house built for the warehousing of all export 
and import goods. It belongs to the Eajah, who is the sole 
merchant in that province, and who monopolises all the trade. 
There was a strange variety of commodities in this store-house, 
and amongst other things a surprising quantity of Chinese toys, 
which the Eajah informed us were the most saleable articles of 
the import trade. Old boys of four-score delighted in watching 
the movements of a little carriage that ran upon springs on being 
wound up like a watch. That night we sailed again on our 
return to Siam, and in due course anchored off the prince's 
palace at Bangkok. 




FESTIVAL OF THE PEACE OFFERING. 



125 



CHAPTEE VIII. 

Festival of the Peace Offering. Legend which has given rise to the festival. Pro- 
cession of the inhabitants to celebrate it. Description of the ceremonies. 
Peculiar mode of catching fish. Description of a supper supplied by a Chinese. 
Visit to the ruined city of Yuthia. Return to Bangkok. 

FTEK the exorbitant expenditure 
gone to by the Siamese govern- 
ment in the case related in a 
previous chapter, namely, as re- 
gards the support of the two 
Siamese white elephants, another 
proof of their possessing more 
riches than brains is clearly 
seen in the annual festival 
called the festival of the "Peace 
Offering" which is at Bangkok kept up with 
the greatest magnificence and splendour. This 
festival is held in commemoration of the day 
on which, according to Siamese tradition, silver 
and precious metals were first discovered to be contained in the 
mines in the interior of the Siamese dominions ; and the story 
linked with this tradition has at least the merit of being 
purely oriental fairy legendary lore. As some of my fair readers 
may perhaps be desirous of hearing this romantic legend as it 
was related to me, so shall I describe it. But, alas ! the 
emphasis and the gestures made use of by the original story- 
teller, cannot be imitated by my feeble pen. 




126 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



THE LEGEND OF THE " KING'S DAUGHTER." 

Many, many years ago, when the sun was much nearer the 
earth than it now is, and when their Celestial Majesties, the 
Kings or Emperors of China or Siam, were wont to hold daily 
intercourse with old Sol, their elder brother, and consult him in 
all cases of difficulty and danger, employing his numerous 
retinue the stars, and even in cases of emergency those more 
distinguished officers, the planets, as emissaries of peace or 
warfare, there dwelt at Yuthia, the then capital of the Siamese 
dominions, a very aged monarch, who, after having reigned with 
a peaceful sway over his subjects for a period of nearly two 
centuries, tired of the cares and troubles attendant upon the 
regal state, had abdicated the throne in favour of his only son, 
a mild youth, of not more than one hundred and sixty or seventy 
years old. Old age was, at that period, a thing almost unheard 
of in these favoured regions, before a thousand or fifteen hun- 
dred years had elapsed, such was the warmth, and strength, and 
life imparted by the close proximity of kind old Sol, who never 
thought of turning in of a night, lest perchance some evil might 
befall his cherished brethren and their subjects. This having 
been the very brilliant state of affairs, the services of the Stars 
were of course at a low valuation ; and they, vexed to find 
their brilliancy thus totally eclipsed, formed the wicked reso- 
lution of revolting against their lawful sovereign and liege 
master ; and, accordingly, instead of going to sleep during the 
twelve hours vulgarly termed day, they unanimously and secretly 
agreed to watch old Sol's movements, and only to make sham to 
sleep. " For," quoth they, " this used not to be our sovereign's 
wont of old ; he loved his couch as much as we do ours, and 
there certainly must be some very strong attraction to draw him 
so close to this vile empire, Earth, quitting those loftier hemi- 
spheres where he breathed the fresh, untainted air of heaven." 

Having closed this compact, the naughty little stars, in lieu of 



A SIAMESE LEGEND. 127 

going to sleep like good little constellations, only pretended to 
snooze, and kept blinking their bright little inquisitive eyes, first 
at one another, and then at their master the Sun, who, quite 
unconscious of the horrid snare laid to watch him, and imagining 
his retinue all asleep, grew brighter, and brighter, and brighter, 
as the hour approached mid-day, and a perpetual benign smile 
dwelt upon his jolly, big round face. 

Now, it so happened, that the old monarch before alluded to, 
who dwelt in quiet and peaceable retirement, possessed one only 
daughter, whose name was, being interpreted, " The Rosy Morn" 
.Rosy Morn was as beautiful as her name, you may perceive, 
indicates ; she was the only comfort and solace of her poor, aged 
father, and besides himself and her own family, none had ever 
set eyes upon her lovely face ; beautiful and good, chaste and 
simple, her sole amusements and pastimes consisted in lulling her 
aged parent to rest by the music of her sweet voice, and while he 
slumbered, sauntering amongst unfrequented woods and dells, 
making the hills echo again to her merry notes, and culling 
the sweet wild flowers of the forest, to make wreaths with which 
she decorated her lovely brow. There was a purling brook that 
murmured gently by the mountain side, and in a cavern, shaded 
from the mid-day heat, " Kosy Morn" was wont each day to rest 
awhile, bathing her weary little feet in the cool crystal waters as 
she crossed. Here, in deep solitude, would she watch the gambols 
of the sportive squirrels, or, listening to the gentle murmuring of 
the zephyr as it rustled through the topmost boughs of the 
banian tree, fall into soft sleep, and dream of bright birds and 
flowers beyond conception sweet. But, alas for her peace ot 
mind ! and alas for her pure and guileless heart ! it chanced one 
day that in her usual rambles, a gorgeous butterfly, more 
glorious than any she had heretofore seen, flew past her- path 
and lighted on a neighbouring flower. In sportive chase of that 
deceptive moth, she sped from flower to flower, from myrtle bush 
to wild jessamine bower. 'Twas vain ! The moth at length 
took lofty flight, and flitting high up in the air, she strove to 



128 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

watch it still, till Sol's bright chariot coming over the shady hill, 
dazzled her eyes so much, that she was forced to relinquish all 
hopes of capturing the errant moth, and so, disconsolate, and 
with her small feet aching, she retraced her steps, and sought 
her loved retreat, there, in the sleep of innocence, to forget her 
woe. Arriving at the favourite brook, she stooped to quench her 
thirst from its refreshing waters ; and the day was so hot, and 
she so much fatigued, that the idea occurred to " Eosy Morn" of 
bathing in that limpid stream. Now she floated merrily down 
with the ripples, now struggled against their tiny efforts ; and, 
finally, very much refreshed and delighted with the experiment, 
and vowing to repeat it again on the morrow, she sought refuge 
in the cavern (having, of course, re-dressed herself} and there fell 
fast asleep. 

Now, it so happened, that whilst all this was occurring, old 
Sol, who was wide awake, and on the look-out from his chariot 
at the very identical moment that " Rosy Morn" was gazing up 
after the butterfly, caught a glimpse of her incomparably charm- 
ing face, and, as is often the case even now-a-days, fell despe- 
rately in love at first sight, and instantly changing the course of 
his chariot, drove at a furious rate down towards the earth. So 
skilfully managed were the reins, and so fleet the coursers, that 
they arrived just in time to permit of Sol's enjoying a prospect of 
" Rosy Morn's " gambols in the water. If at a distance he had 
been struck with her charms, on a nearer view he nearly went 
frantic with love ; and, no sooner had " Rosy Morn" retired to 
her couch in the cavern, than, like an impudent fellow, he must 
follow too. Sol, it would appear, was an accomplished lover ; 
he claimed connection with "Rosy Morn's " father, and her uncle 
and the whole of the family connections ; and, in short, con- 
ducted himself in so ingenious and fascinating a way, that he 
gained complete possession of poor Rosy's heart, and they there 
and then exchanged vows of eternal fidelity. The courtship was 
of rather long duration, somewhere about two thousand years. 
But what is that to the gods 1 Sol kept everybody alive with 



LEGEND OF ROSY MORN. 129 

his warm good-nature and perpetual mirth ; and regularly, at 
the hour of noon, he and "Rosy Morn" met at the appointed 
rendezvous. 

Matters were in this state when the stars got an inkling of the 
real state of affairs, and, as I said before, kept watch over the 
knight errant's proceeding. Just as the hour of noon approached, 
they saw "Rosy Morn " approach, and they saw her meeting with 
Old Sol, and watched them both go into the cavern together, 
and then, while the unsuspicious lovers were fondly conversing, 
the stars drove off the chariot that had carried Old Sol, and 
the horses, taking fright, set off at full speed, and ran home 
again. Having thus cut off all retreat, the stars raised a simul- 
taneous shout, proclaiming the sin their sovereign was con- 
victed of ; disclaiming him as their lawful master, and declaring 
a republic amongst themselves. Poor Old Sol trembling and 
convicted, shed tears of pure gold, and the mountains taking 
pity upon him opened a cavern, by which he might reach his 
home in safety, and told him that he might drive through there 
every day for safety's sake. Sol shed abundant tears of gold 
and wept at intervals as he went along ; these spots where he 
wept are now the gold mines of Siam. It took Sol twelve hours 
to regain his home, and then he drove out as usual, passing 
through this cavern on his way home every night ; and they say 
that, for a fortnight in every month, he picks up his bride, 
" Rosy Morn," at the mouth of the cavern, and takes her home 
with him. As for "Rosy Morn," she wandered disconsolate through 
many caverns and mountains also, and her tears, flowing abun- 
dantly, were all tears of silver : these spots are now the silver 
mines of Siam. At length a compact was closed between the 
republican stars and Old Sol, to the end that, for one-half of the 
month, they should be allowed to gaze upon her lovely face, and 
that she was to live with Old Sol the other half ; but it was dis- 
tinctly stipulated that Old Sol should never dare to kiss " Rosy 
Morn," or, as she is now called the Moon, before publi3 gaze. 
This stipulation is, however, occasionally broken when an eclipse 



130 KESIDENCE IN STAM. 

solar or lunar takes place ; and then, on such occasion, the 
Siamese turn out en masse, and shout and fire guns, and beat 
gongs to warn both parties of the impropriety of such proceedings, 
and the warning generally has its due effect in the course of two 
or three hours such time being requisite to elapse before the 
warning sound could travel such a great distance from earth. 

Such, gentle reader, is the fable of the festival of the peace- 
offering, and the spot where it is celebrated is, by the Siamese, 
believed to be the very identical cave where " Rosy Morn " and 
Old Sol were wont to plight their faith, and vow vows of eternal 
love. 

To this cavern an annual pilgrimage is made by all the male 
inhabitants of Bangkok and the surrounding villages each man 
carrying with him, according to his means and position in life, an 
offering in the shape of pieces of money, in gold and silver, 
which votive offering is, after a form of prayer repeated by the 
attendant priests, cast into an impenetrable pit at the further 
end of the cavern. The procession usually starts from Bangkok 
by water, and landing at Yuthia, or Juthia, the ancient capital, 
proceeds on foot through a well-beaten pathway to the much- 
revered spot, which is not many miles distant from the place of 
debarkation. 

We accompanied this procession in the year 1840, having 
been permitted to do so under the kind auspices and 

patronage of Mr. H , who possessed sufficient influence 

at court to procure us this privilege a boon seldom accorded 
to any professing a creed differing from that of the Siamese 
themselves. At daybreak on the appointed day, canoes 
were seen gliding rapidly from every part of the river towards 

the mosque of the White Elephant. H , myself, and two or 

three others, masters of different vessels, had been astir since 
four o'clock, nearly an hour and a half before the first tint of 
dawn made its appearance in the rosy east. We made good use 
of our leisure time in disposing of a goodly quantity of viands 
and other substantiate for breakfast, knowing full well that as 



A SIAMESE PILGRIMAGE. 131 

His Majesty himself was to head the procession, we should be 
denied anything in the shape of a breakfast before that mighty 
potentate had satiated his appetite, an event not likely to occur 
before midday at the earliest, and one which would have consi- 
derably damped our having any pleasurable participation in the 
novelties of the scene we were about to witness. We had just 
finished smoking our first cigar as the dawn appeared, and the 
spectacle of many canoes presented itself. "Come along!" 

cried old H ; " we must be off early, or else the river will 

be completely blockaded." Willingly obeying this summons, we 
were marshalled down to the water-side, and there found one of 
the Prince's state-canoes ready in attendance for us. It was at 
all times a handsome boat, but on this particular occasion was 
very beautifully and tastefully arranged ; garlands of flowers 
were hanging in festoons all round her sides, the men that 
paddled were very smartly dressed, and the cushions on which 
we sat were composed of crimson velvet, inwrought with gold 
tissue flowers. She had twenty paddles, besides the one used by 
the steersman, and with all these at work (the tide serving at 
the time) the canoe shot through the water like a meteor. We 
were soon at the point of rendezvous, and had scarce been there 
five minutes before a universal crouching of the multitude 
assembled in the endless canoes, the sounding of gongs and 
blowing of trumpets proclaimed the approach of no less a 
personage than His Majesty the king himself. Though obliged 
to bow down my head like the herd in general, I caught a 
glimpse of His Majesty through my fingers, as the fat old fellow 
came rolling down, supported on either side by cringing cour- 
tiers, puffing and blowing like a grampus. The exertion was 
evidently a great one for him, and one to which he was but little 
accustomed ; as, though the distance was not many hundred 
yards, he was compelled more than once to call a halt. At last 
the fat king was seated, and the procession formed in regular 
order ; the canoes of the ministers of state following next to the 
royal family, and the others following in like order, according to 

K 2 



132 KESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

the rank of their different proprietors. Mr. H being a peer 

of the realm, we were stationed somewhere about the third 
range of canoes from the royal family, the average number of 
canoes in a line being from five to eight. I was surprised to see 
such beautiful regularity and discipline as was kept up in the 
lines of march, especially as the current was sweeping us rapidly 
towards the points in the many different turnings of the river. 
When morning fairly broke, my delight was indeed great to 
witness so magnificent a spectacle. Upwards of seventy thou- 
sand canoes, all more or less brilliantly painted, with gay 
streamers of every colour in the rainbow, floating from little tiny 
masts stuck up in the prow and in the stern ; people dressed 
in a great variety of coloured stuffs, and the soft bands ot 
Siamese music floating gently o'er the water. The voice of 
melody was perfection itself, though no distinct chords or airs 
could be traced. They had more the effect of several .^Eolian 
harps, sighing to the morning zephyr. The instruments used in 
these bands were a species of pandean pipes ; they consisted o 
several hollow reeds passed through a hollow block of wood 
hermetically sealed on all sides, save the orifice left to blow 
into. A little hole in each reed, some four or five inches above 
the mouth-piece, served as notes, and the performer played with 
both hands, keeping all the keys closed except the note he 
wished to sound, which note had a responding chord on the 
opposite side. The intonation is really beautiful, and I have 
little doubt that under skilful hands, this instrument could be 
brought to perfection. 

Though no one was expected, or rather dared, to break his 
fast before the permission of the king had been obtained to this 
effect, we took the- liberty of smoking cigars en route, as did 
every single soul in this armament of boats, His Majesty, I 
believe, excepted. Talk about the Turks being great smokers ! 
why the Siamese beat them all to nothing. I have often seen a 
child only just able to toddle about, and certainly not more than 
two years of age, quit its mother's breast to go and get a whiff 



BUINS OF TUTHIA 133 

from papa's cigaret, or, as they are here termed, borees cigarets 
made of the dried leaf of the plantain-tree, inside of which the 
tobacco is rolled up. 

So we smoked and puffed, and the men puffed and paddled ; 
and as we advanced, fresh landscapes were always inviting our 
attention : one moment it was a rich sugar-cane plantation 

which H envied, and wished he possessed, to convert into 

sugar ; the next, it was a thickset mango tope, amongst whose 
branches / longed to be, envying the squirrels the felonies they 
were committing amongst the ripe and luscious fruit ; a third, 
and we came upon a paddy-field, or rice-plantation, and then it 
was the Siamese boatmen's turn to be envious, and to turn up 
their eyes despairingly, as they knew that the hour for boiled rice 
and stewed fish was, alas ! not arrived by a long way, and their 
bowels yearned towards this field and its productions. At 
length, after three hours' incessant paddling, the tide having 
favoured us all the way, we sighted the ruins of the city of 
Yuthia. The first thing that turned out to greet us was a 
crocodile, and a few minutes afterwards another, perhaps his 
mate ; then we met a whole host of crows and a vulture ; lastly, 
we arrived at the city itself, and having landed, found it to con- 
sist of six fishermen's huts and a betel-nut vendor's stall ! 
And yet, not more than twenty-five years before the date of my 
visit, it had been more densely populated than Bangkok. The 
twenty or twenty-five miserable inhabitants were all prostrate 
before their little city, waiting till the whole cortege should pass 
before they joined in the procession, as the inhabitants of 
Bangkok are the cockneys of Siam, and claim precedence 
wherever they go. A magnificent litter had been prepared for 
the king, and seated in this, he was carried on the shoulders of 
eight of his most faithful subjects. The bearers were being 
relieved continually ; whether from the ardent desire of all to 
share in the honour of carrying so illustrious an individual, or 
from other motives, I am unable to say ; I rather think, though, 
that they found their burthen so excessively heavy, that they 



134 BESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

were compelled to call in assistance after a very short trial. A 
band of pestiferous-looking priests, clad in plague-signal cloth, 
led the van, the chief of whom carried the Siamese national 
banner, to wit, a red flag with a white elephant in the centre. 
The first mile of ground led through paddy-fields abounding 
with crows and vultures, things so common in Siam as to render 
our march most unexciting, the only excitement entertained 
being that of alarm and fear lest, in the thick grass and weeds 
through which we were passing, we should inadvertently set foot 
upon a snake a by no means agreeable species of sensation, when 
you are labouring under the conviction of having come out in 
pumps and stockings for the occasion, and that the fangs of a 
viper would easily penetrate far more resistible articles. Our 
only consolation was, that the priests and those in advance of us 
were going over exactly the same ground as ourselves, and were 
therefore more liable to fall in the combat. I admit this was 
not a very charitable thought, but it is linked with human 
nature, and must be excusable. As results proved, however, we 
got through this place scot free ; nor snake nor serpent turned 
up to oppose our path, or at least if they did they must have 
had an effectual quietus in the heels of the shoes of the many- 
headed. Emerging from this paddy-field, we entered upon a 
sloping ground, which led us into the very heart of a thickly-set 
toddy tope, or plantation of cocoa-nut trees. High up, and 
seated amongst the lofty branches of these, were a legion of 
monkeys, all chattering and grinning and pouting at each other 
in a most ludicrous and inquisitive manner ; they were evidently 
anxious to ascertain what the whole of these proceedings meant, 
and why there should be such a sudden irruption of people 
upon their heretofore little-frequented territory. Knowing the 
vicious propensities of these creatures, I was chuckling to 
myself in the diabolical expectation that one of them might be 
induced to drop a friendly cocoa-nut upon the bald pate of his 
Celestial Majesty ; but they were evidently Siamese monkeys to 
the backbone, and dared not insult their imperial master. 



CEEEMONIES AT SACKED CAVERN. 135 

Possibly they thought that in reward for such an action, he 
might cause their favourite haunts and trees to be cut down 
or burnt up with fire. Through this place we also passed 
unscathed, and then we entered into a regular jungle, a place 
meet for tigers and chetahs, with grass growing taller than any 
man, and boughs of trees so impenetrably knit together, that 
ages and ages must have passed since the sun ever shone on that 
dark decomposed earth. 

The jungle was not, however, very broad in this part, and 
after about twenty minutes walking we came out into the 
morning sunlight again, delighted once more to inhale the 
fresh pure air of heaven. There stood before us the miraculous 
hill, or rather I should call it, mound, for it was little better 
than one of those tumuli so often met with in Syria. In the 
centre there was a cavern, and close by it flowed a little brook, 
so shallow that you could hardly sink a mouse in it. Thought I 
to myself, things must have sadly degenerated since the days of 
the famed Siamese Legion, in every respect ; for not only are the 
lives of men sadly curtailed, but mountains have become almost 
ant-hills, and brooks that floated young ladies, turned into 
streamlets that any strong-minded ant could swim across at a 
start. Such, however, was the case, and now the ceremony of 
the peace-offering commenced. First the king actually conde- 
scended to bathe his own feet in a little stream of water, and then 
he reverently approached the cavern, and, crouching as he entered, 
he went up to the further end, and through a large orifice in the 
earth, somewhat resembling a well, and about four feet in 
diameter (as I afterwards ascertained), let drop his piece of gold, 
and then, backing out in the same way as he had entered, 
remounted his litter, and was forthwith conveyed to a spot some 
two hundred yards off, where his liege subjects had prepared his 
royal breakfast. The moment the king was seated on the 
cushions and carpets spread out, some attendant imps entirely 
concealed him from view with a curiously wrought circular 
screen, and so there was an end to my hopes of getting a sight 



136 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

of this grampus at meals. The concourse now thronged by 
dozens to the votive shrine ; but though we arrived there by 
eleven o'clock in the morning the throng never ceased pressing 
towards the caravan till sunset, and then not one-third the 
number had accomplished their vows. Thus it would occupy 
three good days ere the ceremony could be completed, the interval 
being employed by the natives in eating and sleeping throughout 
the day (except such as were actively engaged in the ceremony), 
and keeping watch throughout the night against the encroach- 
ment of reptiles and wild beasts, by keeping large bonfires 
continually lit, which served also in some measure to check the 
mosquitoes in the murderous nightly onslaught they made, with 
a perfect whirlwind of buzzing. The old king absolutely remained 
throughout the whole time, but then his comforts had been 
amply provided, and with the exception perhaps of the absence 
of a few of his favourite Dulcineas, slept d la campagne as well 
as he did in his massive palace. 

Now I and the others that accompanied Mr. H had by no 

means bargained for such a treat as this ; sleep was to our eyes 
precious, and breakfasts, dinners, and suppers goodly, so we were 
sadly amazed and puzzled to find ourselves in this dilemma. 

Old Mr. H , however, after having had his joke out with us, 

gave us to understand, to our rapturous delight, that he had 
taken due precaution to provide against all apparent evils, telling 
us that if we would have the goodness to follow him along the 
banks of the little rivulet, twenty minutes' walk would bring us 
to a village where the necessary preparations had been made 
many days previous. Our spirits were amazingly revived at 
this intelligence, and hopping off the ground upon which we were 
seated tailor fashion, we walked briskly onwards, quickening 
our paces as darkness now gathered in around us, lest a stray 
tiger should take it into his head to place an obstacle in our 
onward way. With the. exception of one alarm, and that was from 
a poor cow that was browsing quietly in a little yam field, and 
which a Portuguese captain of our company, in his excessive 



VILLAGE ON THE MENAM. 137 

anxiety and fear, magnified into an elephant, we encountered 
no let or hindrance, and soon after nightfall reached the village 
where the welcome tone of the well-known voice of one of 
Mr. A 's servants, assured us that all was sunny and com- 
fortable, and the result proved his words to be truth itself. 

The village at which we had slept consisted of upwards of 
thirty houses or sams, built after the Malayan custom, that is 
to say, they were raised high up in the air to prevent the 
intrusion of reptiles or beasts of prey, and were accessible only 
by means of a ladder, which ladder was hauled up and stowed 
in one side of the cabin so soon as the family were about to 
retire for the night. In the immediate space between the 
cabin and the ground, rough bamboos were lashed cross-ways 
from the poles that supported the house, and at a height from 
the ground that would preclude the possibility of any jackal 
or other wild animal Committing depredations amongst the 
poultry, and these served for the fowls to roost upon during 
the night. The pigs, ducks, &c., were well secured in separate 
buildings, and though marauders from the jungle made nightly 
efforts to force an entrance into these places, they were so well 
and strongly secured that they never succeeded. Each house 
had a considerable portion of ground attached to it, which was 
principally cultivated with yams and the sweet potato, beans 
and radishes being occasionally interspersed ; the banana or 
plantain tree here grew very luxuriantly, and ever and anon a 
lofty palm or cocoa-nut tree would rear itself proudly above its 
dwarfish neighbours. A little tributary stream of the Menam 
ran right through the centre of the village, and in the monsoons, 
when the fall of rain was often excessively heavy, the natives 
informed us that this stream assumed the strength and form of 
a perfect torrent, often flooding the surrounding country for 
many hundred yards on either bank. This also was another 
motive for inducing them to build their houses on the top of 
platforms supported by lofty poles. During the two nights that 
we slept at this village there was scarcely a male inhabitant 



138 BESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

present, all being absent at the sacred cavern ; the ladies, how- 
ever, were very obliging and communicative, and gave us a great 
deal of information intermixed with tales of a marvellous and 
dubious character. Small fish were very abundant in this little 
tributary stream, and we had no small sport in endeavouring to 
secure some of them for our luncheon on our way back to the 
scene of the festival the next day. The heat was excessive, 
although only nine o'clock a.m., and walking did anything but 
improve this state of affairs. The cool rippling of the water 
looked so inviting that we could not resist the temptation of 
bathing, the water was unfortunately very shallow, yet by 
remaining in a sitting posture we secured our shoulders from 
being blistered by the sun, whose hot rays, however, struck 
fiercely on our heads ; to remedy this evil we had recourse to 
our large silk pocket-handkerchiefs which we saturated with 
water, and then tied round our heads, keeping them damp by 
occasionally clipping our heads under water. This completely 
secured us from all fears of a coup de soleil, and the enjoyment 
of those few hours spent in that stream will not easily be forgotten 
by those that remain of the party. The water was as clear as 
a mirror, and the fine sand at the bottom finer than the finest 
Brussels carpet ; shoals of tiny little fish were darting about in 
every direction, and ludicrous were the attempts made by us to 
catch them with our hands, the chase generally terminating in a 
somersault in the water. One of Mr. H.'s Siamese servants, 
a very 'cute lad, and skilful in the art of fishing in particular, 
suggested to us a plan, which we immediately adopted, and which 
proved successful even beyond our most sanguine expectations : 
by means of a mometty or hatchet, which he ran and borrowed 
from a husbandman who was tilling a piece of ground not many 
hundred yards off, this fellow dug in a very few minutes a 
reservoir about two feet distant from the banks of the stream, 
and about eighteen inches deeper than the deepest part of 
the stream itself. Having completed this he lopped a 
goodly-sized bamboo from off one of the many bamboo bushes 



A FISH TRAP. 139 

that were growing nigh at hand ; cutting off the joints of this 
he obtained a hollow piece, which formed a pipe of nearly a 
yard in length ; and now commenced the real labour of his 
work, and the hatchet was brought into play again ; with this 
he dug away at the bottom of the reservoir so as to reduce the 
distance between it and the river. Meanwhile, another, inside 
of the water, was scratching away in the sand, like a terrier at 
a rat-hole, inserting his knees into the vacuum he made so as 
to prevent its being immediately filled up again with sand ; in 
this way they worked hard for nearly twenty minutes ; the 
bamboo tube, which was of immense thickness and strength, was 
then by means of a pocket-knife sharpened so well that it would 
have been a dangerous weapon to strike a man with, this was 
then with might and main passed through the earth, from the 
soft clayey side of the reservoir, and in a few minutes a loud 
shout proclaimed that victory had crowned their efforts ; the 
bamboo tube had penetrated into the stream, and the water for 
a moment deviating from its course filled the reservoir with 
water. So far so good ; we were as yet in ignorance as to what 
was to follow, obeying, however, the injunctions of our Siamese 
leader, we all came out of the water, and having separated into 
two parties, one marched left and the other right along the 
tributary stream ; when either party had got to about a hundred 
yards from the reservoir or fish-trap, we were commanded to halt 
and enter the water again, and then in open columns to approach 
each other splashing the water with our hands, and creating as great 
a hullaballoo as we could. This injunction was duly performed, to 
the great alarm and astonishment of the shoals of little fish that 
fled from us as we were approaching on either side towards the 
centre, and there finding, as they fondly imagined, an outlet, they 
bolted through the bamboo pipe right into the reservoir, and then 
H.'s servant who had been watching on the opposite bank, 
when he thought a sufficient quantity had been entrapped, made 
a sudden rush into the water, and with one mighty effort pulled 
the bamboo tube through, and thus cut off all intercourse between 



140 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

the river and the reservoir. Oh ! but it was rare fun to see the 
swarms of little fish that were snugly entrapped in that little 
reservoir. We began getting them out of the water by means 
of a tin-pot, but finding this operation too tedious we resorted to 
the far quicker expedient of baling out the water itself ; for this 
purpose basket, tin-pot, and even our straw hats were put into 
requisition, and in a very short space of time the water was all 
gone, and there lay a little shoal of fish which filled a very goodly- 
sized basket, and which, in about an hour's time afterwards 
were served up in one of the most delicious curries I ever 
remember to have tasted. The best of it was their bones were 
so delicate that we could swallow them entire, head, tail, bones, 
and everything. After getting pretty well splashed with mud in 
the operation of baling out, we took to the water again for a few 
minutes, and then came out fresh and strong, like giants ready 
to run their course. 

The second and third days at the scene of the feast passed off 
very much the same as the first, we only varying our occupations 
by shooting parrots or pigeons, or fishing upon the trap system, 
which, I may here remark, never upon a single occasion failed. 
On the fourth day, however, the procession closed ranks and 
turned their faces towards Bangkok again, with the same state 
and ceremony as when they arrived. Our party lingered behind 
awhile, so as to get a peep at the cavern. No sooner were the 
pilgrims out of sight than our unhallowed feet were treading 
upon the earth of the sacred cavern, and our sinful eyes gazing 
down that dark mysterious pit, in which so many millions of 
precious coins must, through a course of centuries, have been 
poured : we dropped stones, and one of our party even 
dropped a piece of money, but we listened and listened in vain 
for any sound that might announce its arrival at the bottom ; 
nothing but a low murmuring sound as the wind swept into the 
cavern and rushed through this opening into its dark mysterious 
chambers below. " Ah ! " thought I to myself, " if ever I should 
live to see John Bull get possession of this fair wealthy land, I 



SUPPEK ON THE MENAM. 141 

know where to find my bankers. Whilst others may love in the 
river to fish, I'll come here with a deep-sea lead covered with 
cobbler's wax, and some seventy or eighty fathoms of line, and 
if I don't hook up something better than fish, I'm a Dutchman." 
Having completed our survey we took to our heels, and ran a race 
so as to overtake, if possible, the rear-guard of the pilgrims before 
arriving at the worst part of the jungle, for we relished not the 
idea of being left alone amongst such very undesirable neigh- 
bours as that jungle afforded. Notwithstanding all our speed, 
however, we missed them, nor did we ever see them again till 
hot and fatigued, out of breath, and exhausted from the good 
speed we had made, we reached Yuthia just in time to see the 
last few hundred canoes sweeping round the corner of the first 
turning in the river. Most strange to say, not a single monkey 
was to be seen amongst the cocoa-nut trees on our return, they 
had evidently been alarmed by the invasion of so large an army, 
and had sought refuge in some more remote part of the jungle. 
I have already stated that the city of Yuthia, at the period of 
our visit, consisted of some six fishermen's huts and a betel-nut 
vendor's stall : on our return from the money-devouring cave, 
we agreed to devote one day, at least, to researches amongst its 
ruins. The only difficulty however was, how or where we were 
to pass the night. After a good deal of discussion about this 
knotty point, it was finally arranged that we should sleep in the 

canoes moored to the bank, Mr. H retaining the state-canoe 

for himself, and myself and the others using those belonging to 
the natives. A cushion, however, from the state-canoe was 
allotted to each to rest our heads upon, and the bottom planks 
of the canoe formed our mattresses ; though by no means soft, 
they at least possessed the advantage of being cool beds a very 
essential requisite of a sultry night in these hot climes. Matters 
being thus satisfactorily arranged, we bethought us of supper ; 
for the exercise of the day had given us a keen appetite. One of 
the fishermen, a Chinaman by birth, undertook, for the consider- 
ation of five ticols in silver, to give us a spread, and we watched 



142 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

his cooking operations with the eye of a falcon and the cravings 
of a wolf. He was evidently well versed in the culinary art, and 
in little more than an hour's time set before us the result of his 
labours. The first dish was a species of soup, called by the 
natives ckou chou : it was a composition of pork, fowl, yams, 
sweet potatoes, ducks, fish, onions, garlic, mint, pepper, salt, and 
cloves ; these were all boiled down to a perfect mash, and then 
more water and a small piece of bird's-nest were added, till the 
whole somewhat resembled in substance ami colour, very rich 
turtle-soup. This singular mixture, which perhaps, under any 
other circumstances, I should have been very loth to taste, was, 
upon trial, highly approved of by all our party ; and having 
once eaten it, I should be glad to have such another mess again 
any day in the week. After this soup, we had some plain boiled 
rice, with mango pickles and lalichung. This latter article I 
thought really quite delicious, little imagining at the time 
what it was composed of, or how made. Gentle reader, imagine 
my horror on learning, some few days after, that lalichung was 
nothing more or less than putrified prawns, which are in this 
state dried in an oven, and then beat up in a mortar with 
onions, garlic, spices, and a little salt ; this is then placed in a 
jar, and hot vinegar poured over it ; being then left a sufficient 
time to allow the vinegar to penetrate and thoroughly saturate 
the fish, the jar is hermetically closed, and set aside for some- 
times a couple of months, or even a longer period. The last 
dish consisted of some roast ducks, done to a nicety. Having 
done ample justice to this supper, we betook ourselves to our 
canoe-bedsteads ; and neither heat, nor mosquitoes, nor dew, 
interrupted our slumbers through that long night. 

The first dawn of day was the signal for all of us to quit our 
floating couches. It was very fine and pleasant, and vastly 
agreeable and refreshing, so long as we were asleep ; but, oh ! 
what excruciating pain I experienced in every limb on attempt- 
ing to rise ! a kind of sensation as though some one had been 
giving me a sound cudgelling over night, and had broken every 



RUINS OF YUTHIA. 143 

bone in my body. I limped out of the boat as well as I could, 
having nearly tumbled into the river in the attempt. The 

others were as bad as myself, with the exception of old H , 

who was too old a stager at this kind of work to suffer any 
inconvenience therefrom. A few minutes' brisk walking about 
the banks made the blood circulate again ; and by the time we 
had partaken of some of the old Chinaman's tea, we were all as 
well and sprightly as ever. 

There is a vile practice, in Turkey, of offering a guest small 
cups of very bitter coffee, without sugar or milk, a refusal 
to swallow which, would be a gross insult to the host, though 
the abomination tastes like a mixture of quassia and quinine. 
The Chinese have a still more inhuman system of forcing dread- 
fully strong green tea upon their victimised guests, equally void 
of sugar or milk ; a succession of which cups of tea, if continued 
for the space of a week, would reduce the strongest-nerved man 
in Europe into a state of nervous debility, and cause him to 
start at the squeal of a mouse, as a. lady would at the report of 
a cannon. We should have fallen victims to this species of 
barbarity on the present occasion, had not H.'s servant had the 
forethought to provide against such an emergency, by bringing 
a tin canister with him full of sugar-candy. 

Now, then, to explore the ruins of the ruined city of Yuthia. 
First we come to two stones, one above another, and a small 
piece of burnt timber, evidently the remains of some house 
that had caught fire. A few more paces, and we find 
half a ruined wall, and a lizard (the latter bolted on our near 
approach) ; more walls, more stones, more lizards, and then we 

tumbled across a snake ! M made short work of him with 

his gun. The report was the signal for a universal rustling 
and squealing among the bushes near us. Quadrupeds and 
bipeds and insects emerged from their retreat, and sought refuge 
in every direction. A jackal and a cat were the next victims to 
our guns. All this time we marked evident traces of the foun- 
dations of houses that had once existed ; and the stumps of poles 



144 KESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

driven fast into the ground led us to understand that these had 
been the habitations of the poorer class, who, like those we 
had seen at the village we slept at, had had houses exalted upon 

lofty poles. Captain S picked up the leg of a little statue, 

beautifully sculptured in marble ; but with this exception, 
nothing worthy of note was found. We saw plenty of bones, 
both of animals and human beings ; and as we approached a 
rather suspicious-looking copse, round which tall grass grew in 
wild luxuriance, we discovered the imprint of a rather suspi- 
ciously-formed foot, which looked amazingly like a tiger's. 
After examining this with due care, we came to the wise resolu- 
tion of retracing our steps towards the fishing huts. " Where's 

Mr. C ? " asked Mr. H , as he missed him from our side 

all of a sudden. (C was the captain of a Bombay ship, 

loading sugar at Bangkok.) We looked around in vain for the 
missing man, till H.'s servant descried him in the distance, 
tearing over the ground at his utmost speed on his way home. 
The fact was, he had caught the ominous word tiger, and being 
of a nervous temperament, had thought prudence the better 
part of valour, and accordingly sought refuge in flight. Many 

and many a hearty laugh H and I had together, in after 

days, as we conjured up to memory's vision the truly ludicrous 
figure the Portuguese skipper cut, as he fled from the supposed 
vicinity of danger, leaving behind him, in his great hurry to be 
safe, his gun, powder-horn, and shot-belt. We reached the old 
Chinaman's hut in safety, and there put his services in requisi- 
tion again for a ten o'clock breakfast. 

The water of the Menam off Yuthia and its vicinity, is a great 
deal shallower than it is at Bangkok, and only vessels of a 
small tonnage could ever have been able to reach this capital. 
Probably this disadvantage, in conjunction with the insalubrity 
of the spot owing to the very marshy ground which lies on the 
eastern bank and the construction of large Siamese govern- 
ment vessels, was mainly contributable to the desertion of 
Yuthia, and the formation of the modern capital of Bangkok. 



ADVENTURE WITH AN ALLIGATOR. 145 

Further up the river, however, where only small junks can lie, 
the land is very highly cultivated, and some of the richest 
sugar-plantations in the whole kingdom of Siam are there to "be 
found. 

Towards mid -day we saw several small alligators crawl 
cautiously out of the water, and lie basking in the sun on the 
muddy banks of the river. One small fellow, hardly three feet 
in length, evidently a greenhorn, came out on the bank just 
under the hut where we were sitting, and in the course of a few 
minutes became so motionless that he was evidently having a 
nap. H.'s servant, who was a daring fellow and could swim 
like a fish, stole stealthily along the bank, and, suddenly seizing 
its tail, with his main strength endeavoured to haul the creature 
up on dry land. But Jack was as good as his master, and 
better ; such surprising strength had the little brute, that with 
a sudden violent lash of its tail, it sent the man spinning several 
yards, and floored him regularly in the mud. I never saw any- 
thing more neatly done : in one instant, the alligator was 
fast asleep, and the Siamese making a gripe at its tail ; the 
next, the alligator had disappeared in the water, and the 
Siamese was on the flat of his back in the mud. Lucky it was 
for the servant that he had fallen on mud, and not amongst 
stones or shingles ; for such was the force with which he had 
been thrown, that on extricating himself, with the assistance of 
one of the boatmen, from his ignoble position, he had literally 
left a deep impression of his head and shoulders in the clay. 
They were obliged to draw water from the river in chatties 
(earthen water jugs) for the purpose of washing him clean 
again ; and a precious operation they had to get all the mud out 
of his hair, for, as ill-luck would have it, he chanced to be a 
Burmese, and wore long hair like a woman. No one ever 
thinks of venturing into the water in this part of the river, so 
infested is it with alligators. The desolation of the spot, and the 
very few boats that now navigate the river, have caused these 
brutes to accumulate ; for I have been told that there was never 

L 



146 



RESIDENCE IN STAM. 



one seen in the flourishing days of Yuthia an assertion I can 
readily believe, from the fact of the Siamese being as much in 
the water as upon dry land ; and such an amphibious people 
could never exist without being permitted to bathe at least 
twice a day ; a thing they could not possibly do in a water 
teeming with alligators. 

Soon after noon, the tide began to serve in our favour ; so, 
getting into the canoe once again, after a sojourn of nearly five 
days amidst the ruins and jungles, the prairies and marshes, 
the toops and quagmires of this least picturesque portion of the 
river Menam, we bid adieu to Yuthia and the old Chinese cook, 
and so paddling merrily homeward, reached Bangkok just in 
time to wash and dress, and partake of one of Mr. Hunter's 
comfortable family dinners. 




CHINESE COOK ON THE MENAM. 



CHAKACTER OF THE SIAMESE. 



147 



CHAPTEE IX. 



General character of the Siamese. General inoffensiveness of their disposition. 
Their dress. Their passion for gambling. Smoking opium. Description of its 
effects. Their skill as swimmers. Adventure of an American who could not 
swim. Want of beauty in ladies of Siam. Use of betel-nut. Ceremonies at 
birth of a child. Amusements of ladies in the higher ranks. Siamese women 
excellent housewives. Education of children. Selling of daughters. General 
summary of Siamese character. 



HEBE is, perhaps, no other nation 
on the face of the earth which 
can be said to resemble, in their 
tout ensemble, the Siamese. The 
Malays have lent them their high 
cheek bones and flat sprawling 
noses ; the Chinese their eyes ; 
the Burmese their stature ; and 
their complexions and dispositions 
have a melange of all these nations 
put together. Of dwarfish stature, 
though of herculean strength, the 
Siamese yet possesses the meekness 
of a lamb, and a great deal of its cowardice. Though his features 
are cast in the Malayan mould, he possesses not one item of that 
insatiable thirst for revenge which is so prevalent a feature in 
the character of the latter people, and to gratify which they 
will sacrifice twenty unoffending victims, if by so doing they 
hope to convey one pang of bitter remorse to the soul of the 
object of their hatred. Who does not know what that fearful 

L 2 




148 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

sentence "running a muck" means, when the Malay, in the 
blind frenzy of his wrath rushes through streets, kreese in hand, 
maiming and destroying every harmless individual that may 
cross his path in his fiendish pursuit of revenge. Now, the 
Siamese are a people incapable of retaining one spark of ani- 
mosity ; and, during my stay at Bangkok, I do not remember a 
single instance of seeing two Siamese come to blows, and seldom 
even quarrel. They have been taught from their infancy to obey 
and respect every grade, from the king to those just one degree 
above them ; and, from their inferiors, they in their turn receive 
that homage they pay to others ; hence, even were they so 
disposed, opportunities seldom offer which would admit of a 
dispute. If they be men of the lower order, such as servants, 
&c., those whom they might consider their equals, from the fact 
of their being of the same calling, never have sufficient liberty at 
their command, or time on their hands, to admit of their meeting 
together and conversing ; and as there are no public houses, those 
dens where brawls generally originate, if per hazard they are left 
together for a minute or two, they are too happy to embrace the 
opportunity of having a little friendly chat, and have no time to 
differ on any one single point. Their superiors they dare not 
insult, under penalty of the bastinado, that ogre that hangs in 
terror em over the heads of all people in Asia ; and, upon the same 
principle, or rather from the same motives, their inferiors dare 
not insult them. 

The dress of the Siamese men of all classes varies only in 
costliness. The rich men wear skirts of silk and embroidered 
stuff, which reaches from the waist to the knees, the rest of the 
body being de naturalibus. The poor men are clothed in coarse 
cloth, sometimes dyed, but oftener in its original state. All 
carry a light muslin shawl, which is flung carelessly over the 
shoulders, while the end is fastened round the waist. The more 
opulent men amongst the Siamese spend their days seated cross- 
legged in the verandah of their little shops. They smoke and 
drink tea almost incessantly, only varying their occupation by 



HABITS OF THE SIAMESE. 



149 



eating when meal hours arrive. They seem to have constitution- 
ally the appetite of a wolf ; for no man but a Siamese or a 
Chinaman in Siam, could for a continuance of years smoke and 




MAN AND WOMAN OF SIAM. 



drink tea as they do, take no exercise at all, and yet be always 
ready for their meals. That practice, so prevalent in the East, ot 
asking just treble the value for the goods they dispose of, is 
familiar to the Siamese merchants and shopkeepers ; but they do 



150 KESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

not possess that sharp cunning and Jesuitical sophistry which is 
so strongly delineated in both Jew and Gentile traffickers in the 
East. The more opulent among the Siamese merchants and the 
nobles and independent men of Bangkok, are strongly addicted 
to gambling and smoking opium ; but, as both these vices are 
prohibited by the king, and are amenable to a very heavy 
penalty (the third conviction subjecting the culprit to transport- 
ation for life), none dare indulge in them openly, or by daylight, 
but so inefficient is the Siamese police, that Bangkok is replete 
with gambling houses of all descriptions, and here nightly are to 
be met numbers of the richest and most respected inhabitants, 
the officers of state and noblemen included, staking immense 
sums of money upon the turn-up of a single card. After a dozen 
rounds have been played, the cards are put aside for a few 
minutes, and opium pipes introduced. These pipes resemble 
in form the common narghili, or hubblebubble, of the Levant. 
They consist of an empty cocoa-nut shell, in an orifice on the top 
of which a hollow wooden tube is inserted, and the opening 
hermetically closed, so as to prevent the escape of either air or 
smoke. In another hole in the side of the cocoa-nut shell, a 
common little bamboo tube, about eighteen inches long, is tightly 
fixed; a little earthen bowl, perforated at the bottom like a 
sieve, is filled with opium, and one or two pieces of fire being 
placed thereon, this bowl is placed on the top of the wooden 
tube. The man who hands round this pipe holds with one hand 
the bottom of the cocoa-nut (which is half full of water), and with 
the other hand he presents the bamboo tube to the smoker, who, 
putting it to his mouth, inhales three or four whiffs of this most 
intoxicating and deleterious narcotic. The effect is almost 
instantaneous. He sinks gently against the cushion set at his 
back, and becomes perfectly insensible to what is passing around. 
From this state of torpor, after the lapse of a few minutes, he as 
gradually begins to recover, and in about five minutes time he is 
ready and fit to resume the game again. The pipe is passed 
round from mouth to mouth, so that half an hour generally 



HABITS OF THE SIAMESE. 151 

intervenes between the first whiff taken by the first smoker, and 
the last sigh heaved by the last man, as he indicates his revival 
from that Elysium of bliss, that short, pleasant dream, from 
which he is gradually awaking. One old, inveterate opium 
smoker told me, that if he knew his life would be forfeited by 
the act, he could no more resist the temptation than he could 
curb a fiery steed with a thread bridle. It carried him into the 
seventh heaven ; he heard and saw things no tongue could 
utter, and felt as though his soul soared so high above things 
earthly, during those precious moments of oblivion, as to have 
flown beyond the reach of its heavy, burthensome cage. How- 
ever true all this may have been, however ecstatic the enjoy- 
ment, the tremulous voice and palsied frame, the deep-sunken, 
glassy, unmeaning eyes, spoke volumes as to the direful effects of 
the system upon the frame ; and, however much soul, or how- 
ever buoyant spirits may have lighted up the tabernacle while 
under such excitement, there was evidently but a faint spark of 
vitality left within. At other times, and a few more whiffs, 
a few more pleasant, glorious dreams, and that last spark would 
be extinct, and nought but darkness dwell within that lifeless 
trunk, which had revelled its glorious light away. 

" Where lias the brightness fled 

That lighted up your eye ? 
Where have both thought and spirit fled, 

The smile, the tear, the sigh ? 
The rippling waters answer ' hush,' 

As gently the beach they lave, 
' If mortals upon their fate will rush, 

They meet it in the grave.' " 

The lower orders of the Siamese have their time too much 
occupied, and are luckily too poor to admit of their indulging in 
the excesses of their richer countrymen. Such as are servants 
are busily engaged about their master's affairs ; boatmen are 
paddling from morning till night and are too glad to avail them- 
selves of the hours of repose in a little friendly chat with their 
own families and neighbours ; they go to roost with the fowls and 



152 KESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

turn out with the crows ; and the consequence is that they are a 
robust, healthy people, their only cares in life being food and 
sleep, for sickness very seldom troubles them. All the Siamese, 
high and low, rich and poor, wear their hair in a most grotesque 
and fantastical fashion ; the whole of the head is shaved with 
the exception of a little tuft of hair just over the forehead, which 
is permitted to grow bolt upright, and has a striking resemblance 
in shape to a cock's comb. They are all inveterate smokers, and 
as I have before stated, commence at a very early age to smoke, 
often before they have entirely relinquished the mother's breast. 
No man or woman in Siam ever thinks of assisting another that 
has had the misfortune to be upset ; without a single exception 
they are all expert swimmers, and the first art into which a child 
is inculcated is the art of self-preservation in the water, and both 
men and women excel in this. A very serious accident to an 
American missionary was very nigh resulting from this indiffer- 
ence on the part of the Siamese to assist others in distress. It 
often happens that Europeans who have been some time resident 
in Siam paddle themselves about the river both for amusement 
and exercise, but none should ever attempt this pastime who 
cannot swim, at least a little, for be sure if any accident happens 
none will come to your assistance. Brother Jonathan, however, 
despite the many warnings given him, and the alarming prece- 
dent of a missionary having been in reality drowned not much 
more than a year before he made the attempt, must needs try 
his skill at paddling also, and of all hours in the twenty-four 
fixed on seven p.m. for the experiment, a time when the river is 
most busy, as every one is returning home for the night, and 
when objects are scarcely discernible, as by half-past seven all 
the year round it is entirely dark at Bangkok. The result of 
this rash essay was, that just as he had got about three hundred 
yards from his house, the canoe jolted up against the cable of a 
ship, and in one instant was overturned. Jonathan, who could 
no more swim than a stone could, had instinct enough, however, 
to cling to the canoe, and it and the luckless man floated down 



HABITS OF THE SIAMESE. 153 

with the tide. In vain did the unhappy missionary shout and 
implore for aid, each time he opened his mouth gallons of water 
rushed down his throat, so he came to the wise resolution of 
holding his peace and trusting to Providence. By a most fortu- 
nate circumstance Mr. Hunter happened to be coming in an 
opposite direction in his large canoe, and passed close to the 
drowning missionary ; it was now almost perfectly dark, and he 
would have passed on without paying the slightest attention to 
so common a sight as a capsised canoe, knowing that the Siamese 
never require any assistance, as they swim with their boats up 
to the first vessel they come across, and there laying hold of the 
ship's cable with one hand, with the other right the canoe ; but 
his attention was attracted to something of monstrous dimensions 
floating behind him, and this he at once recognised to be one ot 
those huge blue felt American hats which all the missionaries 
wore for better protection against the sun ; immediately backing 
his canoe, he picked up the luckless being more dead than alive, 
and conveyed him to his house where, under the attention of 
Doctor Bradley of the mission, he was very soon put all to rights 
again. 

The Siamese ladies may without the smallest fear of competi- 
tion proclaim themselves to be the ugliest race of females upon 
the face of the globe. With their hair worn in the same fashion 
as the men, the same features, same complexion, and same 
amount of clothing, the man must be a gay Lothario indeed who 
would be captivated by their leering glances ; but as though nature 
had not formed them sufficiently ugly, these most neglected of 
all the human species, resort to dyes wherewith to dye their 
teeth and lips of a jet black colour. The darker the teeth the 
more beautiful is a Siamese belle considered ; and in order that 
their gums should be of a brilliant red to form a pleasant 
contrast to the black lips and teeth, they resort to the pleasant 
pastime of chewing betel from morning till night. This betel 
consists first, of the green leaf of the betel, which has a very 
tart flavour, something like the leaf of the pepper plant ; hi this 



154 



EESIDENCE IN STAM. 



leaf is placed a piece of chunam (the common lime used for 
building), then a bit of the betel-nut is broken into small 
pieces, and placed on the chunam, and the leaf being rolled up 
into something very much like a sailor's quid, is then thrust 




SIAMESE WABBIOB. 



into the lady's cheek, and is munched and crunched and 
chewed so long as the slightest flavour is to be extracted, and 
as they never swallow the juice the results are very detrimental 
to the cleanliness of the floors of the houses, and of themselves 



HABITS AND CUSTOMS OF THE SIAMESE. 155 

generally. They commonly make use of two such quids during 
the day, and this horrid mixture has the effect of dyeing their 
gums and the whole of the palate and tongue of a blood red 
colour. Old crones, and very ancient chronoses (for both men 
and women use the betel), who have no longer any teeth to 
masticate this horrid mixture with, are attended by servants 
who have a species of small pestle and mortar always about 
them wherein they reduce the betel into a proper form for 
the delicate gums of their aged patrons. 

Both men and women in Siam marry young, and are conse- 
quently prematurely old; a man of twenty-five may be the 
father of eight or nine children, and the mother of this lot be 
only perhaps twenty-three. There is a curious anecdote told 
of the Chinese, for the truth of which, however, no one has yet 
been able to vouch. They say when a Chinese lady is blessed 
with an increase to her family, from the moment of her accouche- 
ment the unhappy husband is put to bed also, and there 
detained for forty days, and during this delightful penance he 
is subjected to all the rigorous treatment of his better half. 
Should medicine be administered to her, he must partake of it 
also, and he is strictly confined to the same diet that she is 
obliged to undergo, which consists on an average, I believe, 
of about a thimbleful of cream of rice, administered every 
three hours, to say nothing of the pill at bedtime to prevent 
indigestion. Be that as it may, in Siam they expose a woman 
to an ordeal quite as unnecessary as that which the unhappy 
Chinaman is forced to go through. 

No sooner is an heir or heiress born to some happy parent 
than a wood fire is lit in the room, the windows are carefully 
closed, and the door left only just so much open as to admit of 
the smoke, after freely circulating in the room, to make its final 
exit ; this fire is carefully kept lit during a fortnight, and the 
motives adduced for this smoking process is, that the smell of 
fire will deter a certain old gentleman who has too much of it 
at home from passing into the room, and thus preserve the life of 



156 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

both mother and infant. I saw the wife of one of Mr. Hunter's 
own servants, in a cottage close to his house, exposed to this 
ordeal and can therefore vouch for its veracity. 

The wives of the nobles and higher classes amuse themselves 
during the, to them, tedious hours of the day, as most Oriental 
women of the higher classes generally do ; they fritter the long 
hours of the day away in gathering flowers, making bouquets 
and wreaths, singing love-songs and lamentations in a veritable 
woeful strain, dancing to the music of empty gourds strung as 
guitars, telling and listening to fabulous tales, lolling listlessly 
under shady trees, and ruminating on what is next to be done, 
chewing betel leaves, blackening their teeth, and admiring 
themselves in mirrors that reflect too faithfully their frightful 
faces. Orientals universally seem to possess but two exciting 
topics of conversation the one about money, the other about 
food ; their ideas beyond this are limited, they roll round with 
the world and are content so to do blindfolded, provided the two 
essential requisites of life are to be had. They know the day only 
as a time allotted to them to eat, drink, and earn money ; and the 
night they acknowledge as an appointed time of rest ; beyond 
this, few permit their imaginations to stray. What the sun is, 
or how the glorious light of day is derived, why rain falls at 
certain seasons, and the night-dew at others, how flowers and 
trees thrive and blossom and put forth green leaves, and yield 
luscious fruit, where the young bright birds of glorious plumage 
find a home and the wherewithal to satisfy their cravings, what 
the cool zephyr blows for, and seas, and oceans, and rivers in 
continual motion, foam, and leap, or ripple calmly in the sunlight 
these are all themes far beyond the grasp of their dormant 
imaginations. They walk through life blindfolded, turning neither 
to the left nor to the right, nor ever digressing one inch from 
the monotony of their every-day life, unless it be to pick up a 
piece of silver or a morsel of bread. In some eastern countries 
dress occupies the attention of the younger portion of either 
sex, and there are exquisites and elegants to be found ; but in 



EDUCATION OF CHILDREN. 157 

Siam even this is laid aside, as what little clothing they wear 
never alters in its pattern, though it may in design and colour. 
The only time a Siamese female may be said to be decently clad 
is when she is married, and then for the first time in her life 
she is covered from head to foot in gaily coloured muslins and 
veils, her face is hid from public gaze, and three days elapse 
ere she returns to her pristine simplicity of costume ; this is 
the only period during her lifetime that she is thus attired. 
There is a period when her face is again shrouded and her form 
enveloped in long white drapery, but few would like to raise 
her veil and gaze upon the fearful mystery that dwells in her 
face ; it is when the spirit has fled to that long home, " where 
the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest" 

The Siamese women though utterly devoid of any moral 
principle are, to do them justice, excellent housewives; they toil 
from sun-rise to sun-down for their husbands and children, 
cooking, washing, sweeping, and employed upon sundry other 
household jobs ; sometimes they ply the needle for a short time, 
but this is an accomplishment very rare indeed. The wives of the 
poorer class of boatmen are often toiling all day, paddling a 
heavily laden canoe up and down the river, striving to earn a 
few pence, or fuangs, as the small Siamese money is termed, by 
disposing of their vendibles, be they vegetables, betel-nut, or 
poultry. The first thing on awaking at early morn, they may 
be seen disporting in the river, swimming and diving like water 
fowl, and the last thing at night before retiring to rest, they 
bathe in the river again. Some days when the heat is very 
oppressive they go into the water in the middle of the day, and 
whether there be twenty or two hundred spectators it makes 
small odds to them, so utterly callous are they to all feelings of 
propriety and decency. Children so soon as they have been 
taught to swim, and are efficient in this art, which seems to 
come naturally to this amphibious people, are initiated in the 
science of paddling ; and for this purpose, every father of a 
family has a little bit of a canoe attached to his establishment, 



158 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

with a paddle of proper proportions ; then the father gets into 
his own canoe and paddles away, and the child enters his dimi- 
nutive canoe and follows in his track, for all the world like a 
young duck learning to swim. The time when broods of these 
may be seen upon the river is between one and two o'clock, 
when pretty nigh all Bangkok are having their siesta. Children 
having acquired these two indispensable attainments namely, 
swimming, and paddling canoes are then separated, and set 
about their different vocations in life. The boys are taught all 
kinds of athletic games, and especially that wonderful Siamese 
game of battledore and shuttlecock. After this they are per- 
mitted, for a year or two, to attend at the watts every day, and 
there, under the tuition of the priests, acquire some faint notion 
of their mother-tongue. After this they are launched into life 
on their own responsibility, the fortune bestowed upon them by 
the father consisting of a canoe and some paddles, and perhaps a 
small trifle in money. From this date the boy never sleeps under 
the paternal roof again, unless in after years by chance or accident ; 
and, somehow or other, they all make their way through life. 
I never saw a Siamese inhabitant begging for a morsel of 
bread, the priests always excepted ; and then it can no longer 
be called pauperism, as what they get from door to door is a tax 
levied on the people, by approbation of government, for the 
support of the church. 

The girls remain at home under the tuition of their mothers, 
who, while they sadly neglect their moral training, give them a 
quiet homely education in all the branches of Siamese house- 
wifery. They have generally become adepts in this art by the 
time they are eight years of age, and then they are packed off in 
canoes to sell all kinds of vendibles, and paddle for miles up 
and down the river from rnorn till night ; and sometimes, if 
they have been unsuccessful in their day's sales, these poor girls 
are kept on the river till past midnight ; and, tired and worn, 
perhaps even without food, the supplicating tone of their voices, 
as they invite purchasers, is heart-rending in the extreme. The 



EDUCATION OF CHILDREN. 159 

long and short of it is, that Siamese husbands and wives, and 
parents and children, possess only a kind of animal instinct, or 
magnetism, which creates a sensation towards each other 
almost amounting to friendship, but that holy thing, love, is 
unknown amongst them ; as well it may be, for how could so 
much impurity be caged up with so fair and spotless an 
emotion 1 So soon as a girl has attained the age of twelve she 
is married, and then the parents wash their hands of her for 
ever ; but should no suitor be forthcoming, she is allowed a 
year's time, and opportunities to gain one. At the expiration of 
this period, if her efforts have been futile, as is, alas ! too often 
the case, she is then taken by her father to his own shop, and 
there sold to the highest bidder that may appear within a 
month's time. Whether, in this state of serfdom, she will be 
kindly or basely used, whether the father will ever set eyes on 
his daughter again, is a feeling that never suggests itself to his 
cold and callous heart. I cannot believe it possible that the 
women are so utterly void of all maternal feelings ; but of the 
fathers' want of humanity I have too often had ocular demon- 
stration, while plying to and fro upon the river Menam. He 
regrets, certainly, that she was not married, for then his 
daughter could have had no ulterior claims upon his hospitality ; 
but now, in case of the death of him to whom he has ruthlessly 
sold her, or in the event of his being obliged to leave the capital, 
she must fall back upon his hands, and then ten to one if he is 
ever able to dispose of her again. Yet, strange to say, not- 
withstanding this unnatural state of affairs, I seldom heard 
of a Siamese ill-treating or quarrelling with his wife ; and 
should daughters that have been sold into serfdom fall back 
upon his hands, they are kindly and gently treated, even though 
their age forbids all hopes of their ever being turned into gold 
again. Such, however, is not the treatment of the unhappy 
girls who oftentimes fall to the lot of Arab merchants from 
Bombay and the Eed Sea, who are residing for commercial pur- 
poses at Siam. These often maltreat their unhappy slaves in 



160 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



the grossest manner ; and their cruelties have sometimes reached 
to such a pitch, that, "watching their opportunity, the girls have 
fled, and sought refuge and protection in the houses of the 
missionaries. But these instances of inhuman treatment have 
invariably been traced to the sons of Islam, residing at 
Bangkok. Neither Siamese, Burmese, Malabars, nor even 
Malays, have ever been convicted of similar atrocities. The 
sons of the Prophet, entertaining an innate hatred against all 
professing any other creed than their own, and especially 
incensed against idolaters, such as the Siamese are, wreak the 
whole fury of their vengeance upon the unoffending heads of the 
hapless victims that fall beneath their sway, by being purchased 
with gold. 

Upon the whole, I found the Siamese a civil, humble, and 
willing people, wrapped in the grossest ignorance and super- 
stition, and lost to all sentiments of moral virtue ; but a reform 
on this score can never be hoped, till they have been made 
partakers of " the benefits of knowledge and the blessings of 
religion." 




DISPUTE WITH COCHIN CHINA. 



161 



CHAPTEE X. 

Dispute between Governments of Siam and Cochin China. Confiscation of Siamese 
vessels in Cochin China ports. Reprisals. Fury of the King of Siam. His 
councils always held at night. Army sent to frontiers. Ship of war " the Cale- 
donia" ordered for sea. Author put in command of two hundred and fifty 
marines. Character and discipline of the Ship's crew. Cruel instructions given 
to the Officers. Encounter a severe storm. Ship nearly lost. Curious 
adventures of a cargo of Sugar on board. Return of Vessel. 

OON after I entered 
the Siamese service, a 
misunderstanding took 
place between the 
Siamese government 
and the Prince of 
Cochin China, arising 
from the ill-treatment 
by the Siamese soldiery 
of some merchants of 
the latter nation. Mat- 
ters could not be ami- 
cably arranged, because 
the Cochin Chinese were 
evidently the aggrieved 
parties, and demanded, very justly, that 
ample reparation and satisfaction be given 
to the sufferers. The Siamese government, 
ignorant, as it was proud, and imagining 
its land and sea forces to be invincible so 
long as they kept within the limits of the Siamese 




] RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

territory, or within the bounds of the Gulf of Siam, treated the 
affair with contempt and insult, and in direct opposition to the laws 
of even barbarians, incarcerated the unfortunate ambassador and 
the whole of his suite, with the exception of one man, who was 
conducted back to the frontiers of his own country, and there 
set at liberty that he might proceed to head-quarters and report 
progress. This man was also entrusted with a fulminating letter 
from the king himself, in which war was openly declared, and 
many significant threats held out, the least amongst which was, 
that the potentate of Cochin China might expect if he persisted 
in sending annoying messages to the kingdom, of the "White 
Elephant, to find himself in a very short space of time a par- 
taker of the unfortunate doom that his luckless ambassador was 
suffering. 

It so happened, that at the period when this intelligence 
reached the imperial court in Cochin China, several Siamese and 
Chinese trading junks were loading at the various sea ports on 
the coast for China, Siam, and Singapore. All which sailed 
under the Siamese flag were immediately seized and confiscated ; 
and the unfortunate crews of these Vessels having been first 
heavily laden with chains, were 'employed with common 
criminals in repairing the roads, cutting away forests, breaking 
stones, and other useful, but by no means agreeable pastimes. 
The fate of these vessels was in due course reported at Bangkok 
by the arrival of a Bombay sugar ship from Singapore, where 
the information had been gleaned from a Chinese junk that had 
arrived from Cochin China. Nothing could exceed the fury of 
the king on learning this intelligence, he held nightly councils of 
war, which all the noblemen and statesmen residing at Bangkok 

were compelled to attend. Mr. H , from his position as a 

peer of the realm, was included in the number, nor would the 
king on any condition dispense with his presence, as he placed 
more implicit faith in his sage advice and arguments, than the 
whole of the others put together. This, though a flattering 
compliment to H , was by no means an agreeable one ; for, 



EXPEDITION AGAINST COCHIN CHINESE. 168 

what with his own occupations during the day, which were 
often manifold and harassing, and the king's interests to 
attend to at night, he scarcely had one hour's rest during the 
twenty-four, the whole time this political litigation lasted. 
Finally, it was determined to bombard by sea some of the prin- 
cipal sea-port towns, at the same time that a vast army of 
somewhere about eighty thousand men, was to assemble on the 
Cochin Chinese frontiers, it having been rightly conjectured, as 
the sequel proved, that such a formidable display would instil 
terror into the hearts of the, at all times, timid inhabitants of 
Cochin China. This large army was to be under the joint com- 
mand of two very celebrated generals, though for what they were 
celebrated, I could never distinctly understand, except it be that 
they had on one occasion outrun the whole of the army in a 
rather precipitate retreat made from the invading forces of a 
rebel chief, who, with less than half the number under his 
command that they had at their disposal, whipped them to their 
heart's content, and sent them flying to Bangkok for further 
succour. Nevertheless, they had obtained the name and dignity 
of being distinguished warriors, and were consequently chosen 
for this particular purpose. Captain Middleton was ordered to 
prepare the "Caledonia" immediately for sea, and I was ordered to 
join his ship, in command of two hundred and fifty marines such 
marines as only those semi-barbarous countries could furnish, 
and about as much skilled in the art of war as a cannibal 
islander might be in trigonometry. However, they had very 
smart dresses; and very fine muskets and side arms ; and, as 
they had been drilled to stand straight and to march, they cut a 
pretty good figure on board, except when the vessel was rolling 
or pitching. On such occasions, it was by no means an uncom- 
mon event to pick up the sentry somewhere in the lee scuppers, 
and his musket behind the caboose (or cook's galley). It was 
a mercy that the cook never got shot, after the repeated unin- 
tentional attempts made at his life ; for the impetus with which 
some of the muskets alighted on the deck (with their muzzles 

M2 



164 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

pointed right into the galley door), was an all-sufficient shock 
to make them go off of their own accord, and they were always 
loaded with ball cartridge. Middleton had a singularly rare 
collection of sailors. Amongst the ship's valiant crew there were 
Manilla-men, Malays, Gentoos, Malabars, a few Arabs, and a 
sprinkling of Siamese. The Manilla-men and the Malays were 
excellent sailors, and so were a few of the Siamese ; but, as 
for the rest, they could no more distinguish one rope from 
another, than they could prevent themselves from being dread- 
fully sea-sick. We were not allowed to carry more than the 
upper tier of guns, because His Majesty thought fit to make this 
a profitable expedition in a pecuniary way as well as in a 
political sense, and we were obliged to land all the " 'tween deck" 
guns, as also some of the upper tier, to allow of the ship being 
laden with sugar by an Arab merchant, who, having received 
intelligence of a great rise in the sugar market at Bombay, had 
offered the government a very high freight to permit him to 
send the sugar to Singapore, to be there trans-shipped on board 
of a vessel that would be immediately freighted to carry it on to 
Bombay. The old Arab taking all the risks of insurance upon 
himself. 

The offer was too good to be refused, and we were therefore 
exposed to the ignominious necessity of proceeding direct to 
Singapore with a cargo of sugar ; after discharging which and 
ballasting, we were to cruise for a couple of months off the coast 
of Cambogia, and as far as Pulo Obi, occasionally running in and 
heaving to off a town, and giving it the benefit of three or four 
stunning broadsides. Particular orders were given to the captain 
to watch the movements of such Cochin Chinese junks as might 
be lying off Singapore, and to dodge them if possible into the 
China Sea, and there give them chase. One thousand tikols in 
silver being the reward held forth to the captain for every such 
junk captured, and five hundred was to be my share of prize 
money. I must do Middleton the justice to say that it was 
his firm determination from the very commencement to act in 



A EOYAL SALUTE. 165 

direct contradiction to his orders as regarded the junks ; his 
intention having been to give them every possible chance of 
escaping, not only on account of the unrighteousness of the act 
towards the owners of the cargo and the vessel, but also as it 
regarded the innocent crews of these junks, who would, if taken 
to Bangkok, undergo every hardship and cruelty that barbarity 
could inflict. Things were soon completed, the cargo shipped, 
and the vessel reported ready for sea ; but before leaving the 
river, Capt. M. got the royal permission to fire a salute before 
quitting his Majesty's floating city. Every Englishman in the 
place was on board, ships' crews and all, to assist us in this 
mighty undertaking, as also in getting the vessel unmoored. 
When the firing commenced, it was the best fun imaginable to 
see the Manilla gunners trying to get their gangs into something 
like ship-shape order, for the moment a match was presented to 
a touch-hole, they took to their heels and fled to that part of the 
vessel which was furthest from the spot ; nor could the Serang's 
lash or the Tindal's oaths induce them to budge one inch till the 
smoke had fairly cleared away. Notwithstanding all these 
drawbacks, the salute was fired with admirable precision, thanks 
to the assistance rendered by the British tars on board. At 
length we took leave of our kind and hospitable hosts, and other 
friends at Bangkok ; and with a list of commissions large 
enough to consume a moderate fortune, all of which we were to 
be sure and execute at Singapore, and very many prayers for 
our safety from the old Arab merchant who had shipped the 
sugar, we sailed down the river with a spanking breeze and 
strong tide in our favour ; and made such progress down, that 
we cleared the bar at daylight next morning, and leaving the 
pilot on board a junk outside the river, set all imaginable sail, 
and were soon scudding along at the rate of ten miles an hour, 
with a breeze as favourable as it could be, direct for Singapore. 
This kind of weather lasted us for two days and a night, and 
then the wind began to veer round in a directly contrary 
direction, with every appearance of a thorough change in the 



166 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

weather ; and tlie heavy banks of clouds on the horizon right 
a-head, indicating something that looked rather suspiciously like 
a coming hurricane, or a China Sea typhoon. The heavy swell 
of the sea as it rolled in mountainous waves towards the 
Cambogian shore, the high land of which was now in sight, 
made the vessel pitch and roll most woefully. As the evening 
closed in the breeze entirely ceased, and then the heavy-laden 
vessel became quite unmanageable. Captain M., who had left 
both his lieutenants behind ; one to assume command of a little 
four-gun brig, which was also ordered for service ; and the 
other, in a bed of sickness, was left entirely at the mercy of the 
Manilla seacunies, or helmsmen, for the steering of the vessel, and 
to the adroitness of the Malayan Serang and Tindal, to see all 
necessary orders promptly executed ; for the swell of the sea 
was so great, that the vessel was in danger of rolling her masts 
overboard. In this dilemma I was pressed into the service, 
and had to perform the duties of an officer of the ship during 
the rest of this most disastrous voyage ; a birth that was by no 
means a sinecure, but which I cheerfully accepted, partly from 
the esteem I had for the captain, as noble a fellow as ever trod a 
ship's deck, and partly from a wish to acquire nautical know- 
ledge ; for I had before this period been to sea professionally, 
and was then passionately attached to a seafaring life. The first 
thing done was to lash the guns with treble lashings. The lower 
and topmast riggings were then set up by means of what sailors 
call Spanish windlasses ; royal and top-gallant yards were sent 
down, and the top-gallant masts struck and housed ; the top- 
sails were close reefed, and the fore-sail single reefed ; preventer 
backstays were passed from the fore and main top-mast, and 
the jib-boom was well secured. Things being made snug and 
comme il faut, the whole of the crew were summoned aft, and 
divided into two instead of four watches, as had heretofore been 
the regulation. Captain M. and the boatswain's mate com- 
manded the starboard watch, myself and the boatswain the 
larboard ; but, in point of fact, poor M. never was off watch. 



CALM IN THE CHINA SEAS. 167 

During the daytime he had snatches of repose, lying on a sofa 
in the cabin ; but at night in bad weather he was never below. 
Midnight approached, and the calm still continued ; not a breath 
stirred in the Heavens ; but the swell went on increasing in 
violence, and the vessel rolled gunwales under. Many of the 
crew, who were quite griffins at sea, began to evince evident 
symptoms of sea-sickness, and as the watch struck the hour 
of midnight on the great booming bell of the ship, the last 
available marine sunk down by the side of the starboard 
gangway in a state of most deplorable debility from the effects 
of the rolling of the vessel. Yes ! his Siamese Majesty's 
detachment of royal Siamese marines, under the command of 
the reader's humble servant, the author, were, at ten minutes 
after twelve on that eventful night, decidedly hors de combat ! 

During the whole of that long dark night, the intense calm 
was unbroken. The cables, which were unbent from the 
anchors and stowed away on the first morning of our departure, 
were again dragged forth by lantern-light, and bent on afresh. 
The anchors were cleared, so as to be let drop at a moment's 
warning ; and though we could not see ten yards beyond the 
ship, we knew, from the direction in which the swell was 
running, that the vessel had been drifting on a lee-shore the 
whole twelve hours of the night, and morning was never more 
anxiously looked for. About a quarter of an hour before day- 
break we had a cast of the deep sea lead, and then, to our great 
concern, we discovered that we were fast getting into shoal- 
water ; a sad fact, which was soon after confirmed to us by the 
distinct roaring of the waves, as they broke upon the distant 
shore. Here was a precious predicament ! Not wind enough 
even to give the vessel steerage way, and the ship rapidly 
approaching a dangerous coast, where, if we escaped being 
drowned or dashed to pieces amongst the rocks, we should only 
survive to become the prisoners of a cruel people, who were at 
all times noted for their barbarous treatment of captives, and 
who, at this particular period, were much exasperated against the 



168 RESIDENCE IN STAM. 

Siamese, and all in any way connected with them. All hands 
were turned out to be ready to let go the anchors ; and as day 
broke we came to in fifteen fathoms water, with two anchors, 
and a hundred and thirty fathoms of cable on the bitts his 
Siamese Majesty's detachment of marines being still decidedly 
hors de combat. With what fury that sea swept wildly by us 
rearing up its foamy crest, and occasionally sweeping the vessel 
right fore and aft ! With what violence would the waves lash, 
and thump, and tug at our poor ship, endeavouring to drag her 
with them on their headlong, heedless, fearless race, to per- 
dition ! and then, in sullen anger, trumpet forth their disap- 
pointed rage, as some unshakeable rock burst their fury, and 
sent them whining and foaming far up into the air in million 
particles of snow-white froth ! These are things only to be felt 
when seen. No painter's brush no poet's song no earth- 
inspired scribe could even trace one faint resembling outline of 
the sad majestic reality of such a scene. Morning broke, and 
daylight spread her light mantle over the earth and sea. It 
was not so fair and brilliant as it was wont to be on a brighter, 
calmer summer's morning ; but still it shed that mysterious, 
blessed light through which the human eye could clearly pene- 
trate, and the hidden dangers of the night became revealed. 
We looked ahead the ship's bows to the waves, and on the wide 
expanse of ocean nothing but restless billows met the view ; but 
from their violent and continued conflict it was clearly indicated 
that the long-looked-for hurricane had reached that spot, and 
was now madly sporting with the waves. A high headland 
to windward, past which we had most miraculously drifted in 
the night, as yet kept the gale from reaching us ; but it was 
evident that, in a very few minutes' time, the whole fury of the 
tempest would burst over our devoted vessel, and, in all proba- 
bility at the very first onset, part her from her anchors, and 
send us with fearful velocity amongst a long ledge of rocks 
that ran parallel with the shore for many hundred yards. We 
looked over the stern of the vessel high-peaked, lofty, towering 



STORM IN THE CHINA SEAS. 169 

hills, capped with the storm-cloud, and descending almost per- 
pendicularly to the sea, were all to be seen on that side to cheer 
us. To the southward of these was a gap in the mountain- 
range, and the sea ran smooth upon the fine sandy beach ; but 
on that beach were plainly discernible hundreds of little figures 
running to and fro, and gesticulating to each other in a frenzy 
of delight. They had discovered the vessel, and probably 
guessed from whence she came, and their thirst for revenge and 
pillage would now, they imagined, be soon amply gratified. 
Now, although all this takes a long time to recount or write, 
this sad survey of our position and chances was the work of a 
few minutes, and our resolutions were as speedily taken. Were 
we to slip, and run the ship aground in the spot where these 
natives were congregated, the chances were, under any other 
circumstances, that both our lives and the cargo would be 
saved ; but though we had a large body of men on board, one- 
half of them might have been knocked down with a feather, 
they had suffered so severely from the effects of the sea ; and 
the other half were too great cowards to make any resistance : 
hence death, in some form or another, awaited us there. There 
only remained, therefore, one last forlorn hope, that of being 
enabled to catch the first puff of wind with all available canvas 
set, and endeavour to beat the ship out to windward, at the risk 
of sails and masts. If these stood we might be saved: if they went, 
then adieu " Caledonia ! " and all that was left would be to take to 
the boats, which, though we had six good ones, could hardly have 
lived in such a sea as was then running. Accordingly, every- 
thing was prepared to slip, and the Tboats kept ready and 
supplied with water and bread, so that they might be used at 
a moment's warning. The few minutes that elapsed between 
this period and the time that the gale reached us, were moments 
of awful suspense. All reefs had been shook out, and the sails 
sheeted home. The first wild blast of the hurricane swept over 
us like a demon in its might the vessel was on her beam-ends 
for a few seconds the anchors were gone and righting slowly 



170 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

again to her water-mark, just as everything seemed lost, and 
the terrible reef was within range of rifle-shot, and shoot- 
ing boldly out into the very midst of the tempest-tost 
ocean, she sped along majestically, luffing well up into the 
wind's eye, and bidding defiance to all the angry tumults 
of the elements "Thank God we're saved," said Middleton, who 
was at the helm, as he felt the barque, obedient to his unerring 
arm, answer the rapid movements of the wheel, and just as these 
words had died away we passed safe through all the noisy, angry 
strife of wind and waters. Those high mountains of Cambogia, 
echoing the cry from vale to vale, brought to our listening ears 
the faint and distant, yet too distinct whoop of disappointed 
revenge uttered by that horde of marauding cut-throats on shore, 
who had been speculating on our lives and property. The 
further we got from the shore the more violent the hurricane 
blew, but, as the sequel proved, fortunately for us, the gale 
veered round a couple of points in our favour, so that under 
close-reefed topsails and a storm staysail, we were enabled to 
make a very long stretch on the starboard tack. It rained, it 
blew, it thundered, it lightened, but still the brave ship sped 
onward on her course, and for six-and-twenty hours not a sail 
was trimmed or a rope touched. After this lapse of time the gale 
still continuing with unabated fury, we sighted some portion of 
the Malay peninsula, and immediately put the ship about on 
our losing tack : we had been two days on this tack, and had not 
got half across the gulf when the morning watch discovered that 
a great quantity of sugar was being pumped up with the bilge 
water, from which it was evident that the ship had proved 
leaky in some part. Luckily for us, on this tack she had made 
so much leeway that we were now nearly in the same parallel 
of latitude as we were when lying at anchor off Cambogia. The 
pumps were sounded and eight feet water in the hold reported ; 
in ten minutes we sounded again, and the leak had increased 
six inches, and by daylight, though the pumps were kept con- 
tinually at work, we had fourteen feet water in the hold, and the 



RETURN OF THE CALEDONIA. 



171 



leak was fast gaining upon us. Now indeed had our misfortunes 
come to a crisis ; we had no hope or nothing to strive for except 
to put the ship right before the wind, and run direct for the 
mouth of the river. This was very soon accomplished, and then 
as the pumps were insufficient to keep the vessel from settling 
and going down bow foremost, the hatches were all unbattened, 
and every bucket in the ship put into requisition. Men were 
placed in the 'tween decks and handed up bucketsful of water to 
others on deck, and as for the poor old Arab's sugar, not one 
grain of it was left from one end of the ship to the other ; it had 
all melted away and formed a nasty saccharine mixture of salt 
water and sugar. Even the buckets were not sufficient to keep 
the leak from gaining on us, and large wash deck tubs were 
swung to the back-stays, and separate gangs kept to haul them 
up and heave the water overboard, and his Siamese Majesty's 
detachment of Eoyal Siamese Marines had this congenial task 
allotted to them. They were no longer hors de combat, fear and 
self-preservation had effectually cured them of sea-sickness, and 
they worked with indefatigable zeal. We had set the ship 
before the wind at three o'clock in the morning, by twelve we 
had the satisfaction of finding that our efforts to keep the leak 
under were successful, as only twelve feet water was reported 
from the pumps ; and at five p.m. we ran the " Caledonia " slap 
over the bar of Siam, and were off Paknam again, and in 
smooth water just as the sun was setting. The leak now rapidly 
diminished, from which it appeared evident that it must be in 
some part of the bow of the vessel, rather high out of the water 
through which the rolling waves forced an entrance. The gale 
was still blowing, though with much greater moderation than out 
at sea ; it suited our ends capitally, we sped up the river like a 
steamer, and at eight o'clock next morning were anchored off 
Mr. H.'s house at Bangkok, much to the amazement and alarm 
of all parties concerned, who were surprised to see a deeply laden 
vessel after a lapse of ten days, return again as light as a feather, 
and towering high out of the water. The first care was to land 



172 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

the guns, which endangered the ship's safety, as she had no 
ballast in her ; the next was to inspect the leak, and then it was 
discovered that a whole plank had sprung just above the water- 
mark, and it was indeed a miraculous event that either the 
vessel or ourselves ever reached Bangkok. Old Hadji Fattala 
came on board to inquire how his sugar fared, and he found as 
cleanly swept a hold as ever a ship could boast of. The old 
fellow in the first outburst of his fury, swore that he would 
prosecute both Middleton and myself, as the accident must have 
occurred through our negligence, and then he tore his beard out 
by handfulls, and capered and danced round the deck after a 
most grotesque fashion, pausing every now and then to mumble 
forth maledictions against everybody who had led him into this 
speculation, and finally he sat down and wept for the money that 
was gone. It was impossible to help pitying the old fellow, but 
had he been a little less avaricious, he might have shipped his 
sugar in tubs and casks, and not in bulk, and thus, perhaps, 
have saved one half the cargo. The " Caledonia " was docked 
that very evening ; but before she proceeded down the river 
she landed a great portion of her crew, his Siamese Majesty's 
Royal Siamese Marines, and their Commander included, as also 
the cook, who had so often been nearly shot, and who took 
a vow that he would never sail with marines again, if they 
gave him twenty times as much pay as he then received. 
This was my first and last expedition to sea on active service. 
A week afterwards I was transferred to the Siamese Cavalry 
and attached to the Prince's body-guard, and the next day I 
was placed upon the staff, as aid-de-camp to his Royal High- 
ness the Prince Chou-Faa, an appointment that agreed with 
my complaint amazingly, having plenty to get and little or 
nothing to do, except walking about in a smart dress, with 
chain straps and gilt spurs. 



TRADE OF SIAM. 



173 



CHAPTEE XI. 

Trade of Siam. Imports from China. Excellent quality of Tea. Sugar Candy, 
Silks, Cloths, Ivory Carvings, Writing Paper, Toys, &c. Mode in which 
business is transacted with Chinese Junks. All the crew owners and traders. 
Harmony with which they manage their affairs. Imports from India. Meagre- 
ness of Imports from Britain. Exports. System on which business is conducted. 
Treatment of Bankrupts. Reasons for supposing that trade between Britain 
and Siam could be greatly extended. 



EEFECT information regarding the exact 
quantities of the imports and exports of 
Siam cannot be obtained, but a few 
general remarks will be interesting 
Siam imports annually from China a 
vast quantity of the very best quality of 
tea, infinitely superior to what I have 
ever tasted in India,' the Straits ot 
Malacca, or even in China itself. This 
arises from the inhabitants of Bangkok, many of whom are of 
Chinese origin, being such connoisseurs of the article itself, and 
consuming such a large amount annually, that none but the very 
finest quality will ever find a market at Canton or Macao. One 
never tastes such tea as is to be found in the private houses of 
Chinese gentlemen ; that which they export to Europe and to the 
Indian Continent possessing not half the aroma of what is 
consumed in China and Siam. China also supplies Bangkok 
with sugar-candy, the Siamese being unable to make anything 
that can approach it in transparency and sweetness. From 
Macao and Canton are also brought elegantly wrought China 




174 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

silks and satins, nankeens, grass cloth, tinsel, exquisitely carved 
ivory fans, fine painted feather fans, rice paper, and colourings 
upon rice paper, Japanese trays and tea-caddies, boxes of 
ivory worked puzzles, elegant Mosaic cut silver card-cases, 
bales of Chinese writing-paper, boxes of water-colours, cakes 
of the finest Indian ink, and a vast deal of bird's nests, glues, 
gums, pickles, and endless preserves, with a few straw hats, 
and Chinese slippers. Immediately on arriving at Bangkok 
the junks coming from China, which are often nearly fourteen 
hundred tons burthen, spread a large awning fore and aft the 
vessel, which is so arranged as to assume the form of the roof 
of a house, the awning slanting off on either side of the vessel, 
so as in case of rain, to carry the water over the sides and 
prevent its penetrating to the decks ; this done, all hands are 
busily employed erecting temporary stalls on either side of the 
deck, in which samples of the articles imported for sale are 
tastefully displayed so as to attract the visitor's attention ; 
between these stalls, a wide passage is left to admit of the 
passage to and fro of such as visit the junk to make purchases ; 
and all things being prepared for public inspection, flags are 
hoisted, and discordant gongs sounded to announce to the world 
at large that they are now at liberty to gratify their curiosity 
and spend their money. Almost every soul on board of these 
junks has an interest in the vessel. They are owners, and 
supercargoes, and sailors, and cooks, and sail-makers, and captains 
by turns, and the cargo is usually entirely their own, each having 
separate partitions in the hold wherein his articles of export 
and import merchandise are stowed. Having accomplished the 
arduous duties allotted to each during a tedious and often- 
' times dangerous sea voyage, they are at the termination of 
every trip metamorphosed into merchants or shopkeepers, and, 
seated on low cane chairs opposite their respective shops, invite 
customers to purchase by long laudatory harangues in favour 
of their respective goods. Amongst other articles imported, and 
one which I omitted to enumerate, is a great variety of really 



CHINESE MERCHANT JUNKS. 175 

very pretty and ingenious toys, such as carriages and carts, which 
on being wound up like a watch, run for several minutes over 
the floor to the no small delight of precocious children, who 
generally soon put a stop to all movements in their thirst after 
knowledge, which leads them to the investigation of the interior 
of these toys, to the utter destruction of the fragile machinery. 

Many of the goods imported are destined for the Singapore 

market ; such, for instance, as the more richly- wrought silks and 

satins, the ivory and feather fans, and some portion of the 

preserves. In such a place as Bangkok, where the fashion is to 

wear as little clothing as one possibly can, and where such a 

thing as a tailor's bill was never heard of, the silks and satins 

are of course in small requisition. There are no operas, or 

theatres, or other places of public amusement, where the ladies 

might sport fans ; and as for the preserves, the Siamese prefer 

their own home-made delicacies to those brought from China ; 

hence these articles would be a dead loss, were it not for 

speculative merchants that trade with Singapore and Bombay ; 

and these buy up such goods en masse, retailing them to their 

correspondents at the two above-named places, to the tune of 

somewhere about fifty per cent, nett profit. Seldom are these 

Chinese junks long in the river before the whole of their import 

cargoes are completely cleared away. The temporary stages 

are then taken down ; each man prepares his portion of the 

hold for the reception of such export goods as he thinks are 

most suited for the China market. These outward cargoes are 

either purchased, or have been bartered for ; and it is surprising 

what a variety of articles are shipped on board the same junk, 

hardly two amongst her many masters speculating in the same 

commodity. This is a wise precaution adopted by the Chinese 

on both their outward and homeward voyages ; it prevents 

their interests clashing together, and excludes all possibility of 

disputes or quarrels arising on this score. They live together 

like one large family, each being happy and contented in his 

own pursuits, and wishing and aiding one another to do their 



176 RESIDENCE IN S1AM. 

best, because no rivalry exists between them. The necessary 
expenses of the vessel and of their maintenance are divided 
equally, share and share, among them. I imagine the greatest 
item in their bill for provisions must be pigs and ducks, for I 
never yet was on board of a China junk that had not both 
these members of what is termed the live stock in abundance. 
During the whole period that a junk remains in the river, three 
preventive officers are stationed on board to prevent the pos- 
sibility of opium being smuggled into the capital ; but I have 
reason to believe that these kind-hearted officers are often 
blinded to the faults of those around them by the donation of 
a couple or three Spanish dollars. 

India and the Straits send to Siam a few drugs and common 
cloths, such as Masulipatam manufactured cloth, palampoors 
for bed-covering, common gingham, &c., and a large supply of 
Turkey red cloth. The imports from Great Britain are very 
meagre, being entirely confined to such goods as are received by 
Messrs. Hunter and Hayes from Liverpool, and which, during 
my stay at Bangkok, did not exceed about one thousand bales 
per annum of manufactures and cotton twist. A vast field 
is open for the introduction of these goods, and probably since 
my departure from Bangkok more mercantile houses have 
established themselves at that capital. 

In exports, the business done by Siam is very great, and much 
more could be done. Not fewer than twenty vessels left Bangkok 
for Singapore and Bombay in 1841 entirely laden with sugar in 
bulk, their measurement amounting to nearly four thousand 
tons. Besides these, four vessels left for England direct with 
assorted cargoes of teas, sugar, ivory, gamboge, dye-woods, lead, 
spices, drugs, &c. ; and as for what was exported to China, the 
one article of betel-nut alone must have yielded the revenue 
a handsome income. But could inducements be offered to 
European vessels to frequent this port ; had they a ready 
market for the disposal of European merchandise (which the 
jealousy of the Government interdicts, except to a very small 



SIAMESE COMMERCE. 177 

amount), and were the duties levied on vessels in the shape of 
tonnage dues abated or done away with ; in short, were the 
Siamese at liberty to lay open the great resources they have for 
enriching the country, the Government, and the people, then 
I may safely state that upwards of one thousand English vessels 
might find ample occupation in trading to and from Siam, the 
Indian continent, and Great Britain, the staple commodities of 
sugar, rice, pepper, dye-woods and lead, being alone sufficient to 
load more than half that number. That Siam contains many 
rich mines of different metals which have been yet unexplored, 
and that the interior may furnish many gums and other 
rich produce as unknown to European markets as gutta- 
percha was not many years since, I have not the slightest 
doubt ; and were an expedition of scientific men permitted to 
visit those parts of the kingdom as yet unexplored by a civilised 
people, rich indeed would be the reward of those travellers in 
the store of knowledge they would accumulate, and in the 
additions that might be made to the various branches of 
science. 

Most of the commercial transactions of the merchants residing 
at Bangkok amongst themselves and with known and respected 
residents, are upon the system of tic, or credit, for longer or 
shorter periods. Wholesale purchasers are allowed to have a 
year's time to liquidate the amount, paying the sum in quarterly 
instalments, and the shortest credit given is forty days. This 
system of traffic is very detrimental to European merchants, 
who experience the greatest difficulty in recovering debts due to 
them when the period for payment arrives ; and fraudulent 
bankruptcies are by no means of unfrequent occurrence. Mr. 
H was obliged to employ several men, who acted as com- 
mercial spies upon the creditors of the firm, and gave timely 
notice of anything approaching to a shut up. On such infor- 
mation being obtained, the measures adopted were stringent 
and immediate ; the debtor was seized before he had the slightest 
inkling of his roguery having been discovered ; his house, goods 



178 BESIDENCE IN STAM. 

and chattels, were taken possession of by the distraining creditor, 
and he himself borne off to the palace of justice, where he was 
immediately made to undergo every torture that human in- 
vention could inflict, till he was at length very lothfully forced to 
confess the exact amount of treasure he possessed a confession 
which usually led to the discovery of the rogue having accu- 
mulated far greater wealth than what was necessary to liquidate 
his debts, but which he had skilfully concealed, in the hopes of 
at some future period being enabled to quit the kingdom with his 
ill-gotten wealth. 

Situated as Siam is, between two great emporiums of British 
commerce (I allude to Singapore and Canton), affording as it 
does so many inducements for the establishment of friendly 
intercourse, both with respect to export trade and to its 
requisite consumption of British manufactured goods, as also 
the fact of its being not only an excellent harbour of 
refuge, but the only one in existence between China and 
Singapore, it is much to be regretted that no binding and 
equitable treaty, based on a liberal footing, exists between Her 
Majesty's Government and the Court of Siam ; such a treaty as 
might entitle our nation to the enjoyment of privileges, at once 
a boon to the English, and no less conducive to the welfare of 
the Siamese. This, however, was a desideratum not attainable 
during the lifetime of the late despotic and superstitious 
sovereign and his predecessors. These, too darkly ignorant to 
appreciate what was most conducive to the increase of their 
own wealth and importance, have invariably repulsed and 
regarded in the light of an infringement upon their (in their 
own opinions) enlightened sense and wisdom, any advances made 
by foreign powers for the amelioration of their social condition 
and the furtherance of traffic. Ever watching with a jealous 
eye the prowess of British arms in the East, and terrified beyond 
measure with the termination of the Chinese expedition in later 
years, it was no part of the king's policy to encourage the advent 
of speculative strangers into his territories, or in any way to 



SIAMESE JEALOUSY OF STEANGERS. 179 

countenance the frequent overtures made to him by the British, 
French, and American Governments. In the king's private 
estimation, amphibious Europeans, and more especially the 
English, whose numerous vessels declared them to his fevered 
imagination to be a people inhabiting the ocean, had only to set 
eyes upon his extensive, rich, and fertile dominions, and his 
sceptre would speedily pass from his sway. It was a thing 
almost incredible, not only to the king, but to the Siamese 
nation, that China, their elder brother, the nearest relation of 
the sun, and the beloved country of the gods, should actually 
be compelled to acknowledge themselves vanquished by people 
hitherto estimated as barbarians, and compelled to yield portions 
of their country, and disburse a plentiful amount of their dollars, 
to a set of water rats who had, as if by magic, assailed their 
country in vessels of all sizes and shapes ; their jealous and 
wary precautions were then redoubled, every stranger looked 
upon as a spy, and the quiet missionaries, who had for many 
years resided in the harmless pursuit of their special avocations, 
were watched with unwearying assiduity. It was never be- 
lieved that the English could, without supernatural assistance, 
have accomplished the marvellous feats they were reported to 
have accomplished in China ; and what strengthened the 
Siamese in this opinion was the existence of an electrifying 
machine, an air-gun, and a few other to them incomprehensible 
instruments in the possession of a peaceful American, whose 
whole duty of life was the study of nature. One missionary, 

Brother C , a species of catechist and schoolmaster, had 

great suspicion attached to his name, from the singular propen- 
sity he had of obtaining the sun's altitude by means of a false 
horizon in a large bucket of tar, with the assistance of a time- 
worn quadrant. Never a day passed, but what Brother C 

might be seen rushing out bareheaded into the balcony of 
his house, which overhung the river, gazing, as the natives 
imagined, to all intents and purposes, into a vast vacancy. The 
natives, naturally inquisitive to investigate the motives that 

N 2 



180 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

gave rise to so strange a freak, asked Brother C several 

questions, to which he invariably replied that he was finding out 
the exact minute of mid-day from the sun ; such an answer 
being incontrovertibly proved to be the fact by such examples 
as, for instance, a native watching the hour-hand of a clock, 
hidden from the missionary's view, and hearing him proclaim 
it mid-day, just as the hand pointed out the same hour, went 

far with the Siamese to convict Brother C of sorcery ; and 

these reports coming to the king's ears, there is little doubt 
but that he would have been forcibly expelled from Bangkok, 
had not the Praklan, or prime minister, by dint of much 
patience and perseverance, explained to his grossly ignorant 
Majesty the simple truths of the fact. 

To such an extent was the suspicion of the Siamese monarch 
awakened by late events, that though possessed of several 
splendid ships of war, well armed and equipped, no persuasion 
could induce him to permit of their making any sea voyages 
which should extend further than the , limits of the Siamese 
Gulf, with the exception only of Singapore, and an occasional 
visit to China. He preferred that they should rot for months 
together in the sweet waters of the Menam, rather than that 
they should risk being seen by the falcon eye of some British 
cruiser. He had no idea of impartial justice, and weighed others 
in the same scale with himself and the Cochin-Chinese. 

The Prince Chou-Faa, who is reported to have succeeded to 
the throne, is the very antithesis of his royal predecessor ; for 
though born amidst savages, or at least a semi-civilised people, 
he possesses an innate love of literature, of religion, and science. 
He has often confidentially hinted, that he prayed to see the 
day arrive when the gates of Siamese commerce might be opened 
to the world at large. That day, I have little doubt, has now 
arrived. In him, any ambassador invested with full powers 
to treat, would find a courteous, wise, and intelligent man ; 
one willing and ready to advance every means of improve- 
ment. His perfect knowledge of English would enable him to 



SIAM AS A HARBOUR OF REFUGE. 181 

dispense with that bane to friendly and upright intercourse and 
conversation a cringing, and most generally prevaricating, 
interpreter. Anything fair and honest, affording like privileges 
to both sides, would meet with his instant approval ; and what 
the benefits derivable are likely to be, I shall endeavour 
concisely and clearly to explain. 

First, let us consider Siam in the light of a harbour of refuge. 

Heretofore, the exorbitant tax levied in the shape of tonnage- 
dues upon all vessels under a foreign flag, were of themselves 
sufficient to exclude effectually the possibility of the Menam 
affording shelter and rest to the tempest-tost ship and 
fatigued and care-worn mariner. But this was not all. No 
stranger was permitted, for any consideration, to cross the bar, 
and enter the river without a special permit being previously 
obtained from the king himself; a transgression of this law 
subjecting the vessel and cargo to immediate forfeiture, and the 
pilot, captain, and crew, to imprisonment and other severe 
punishment. The pilot, indeed, was considered guilty of a 
capital offence, and condemned to death, if he was convicted ; 
for him there was no hope of a palliation of the punish- 
ment, as it was a public law that every pilot, before boarding 
any vessel in the offing, or anchored in the outer roads, must 
be furnished with the royal permit, backed by the official seal 
of the governor of Paknam, the nearest sea-port town on the 
river. This permit was never granted, except in case of a 
friendly visit from a vessel of war, and then it was a tacitly 
understood arrangement that the cannon, &c., were to be landed 
at Paknam, though this stipulation was seldom or never com- 
plied with, as very few war vessels ever made a sufficiently long 
stay to think the risk and trouble of crossing the bar worthy the 
attempt ; unless it were specified, firstly, that the vessel and all 
on board would quietly submit and subject themselves to the 
annoying process and unnecessary visits and inquisitive scrutiny 
of the Custom-house officers at Paknam. Secondly, that the 
captain of the vessel should, before proceeding further up the 



182 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

river, deposit in the governor's hands, or else give ample security 
for the due payment of, the tonnage dues, which were somewhere 
about two tikals per ton measurement (the tikal being equal to 
about eighteen-pence sterling, would make the sum levied on 
a vessel of about 300 tons no less than forty-five pounds sterling). 
And, thirdly, that it be specified that the vessel, before leaving 
the river again, should be obliged to load a full and complete 
cargo of Siamese produce, the export dues on which were even 
more disproportionately large and unjust than those imposed on 
the ship's tonnage. 

Under such disadvantageous circumstances, a vessel overtaken 
by a typhoon, dismasted, leaky, and wholly unmanageable, how- 
ever favourable her position with regard to the mouth of the 
Menam, however fair the wind may be to run to that shelter, 
has no inducement to make the attempt, and no option but to 
battle out the fury of the elements, and strained in every timber, 
eventually reach some port in China, or in the Malacca Straits ; 
else, unequal to the effort, founder with valuable cargoes and 
still more valuable lives, far from the hope of rescue or any 
eventual succour. This is no over-wrought picture drawn from 
fancy's brain. Insurance offices can bear most lamentable testi- 
mony to the unusual loss of life and property in the China seas. 
I do not presume to say that this could be altogether remedied 
were Bangkok to a certain extent a free port ; but I am persuaded 
that many a vessel has foundered between the longitudes of 
Pulo Obi and Singapore, and many more still met with material 
damage and loss, which might have been in a great measure 
alleviated or avoided had Siam held out any inducement to 
the tempest-tost sailor to alter his course, relinquish ineffectual 
tacking against a hurricane, and stand before the wind for the 
river Menam. But of course heretofore this was impracticable ; 
few vessels pass to and from India and China save those that are 
both ways deeply laden. Such ships as are regularly in the 
China trade from Calcutta and Bombay are chiefly freighted 
with opium a drug which the Siamese Government publicly 



RESTRICTIONS ON NAVIGATION. 183 

condemn and utterly prohibit, and which would subject the 
vessel to instant confiscation. Hence a ship seeking refuge in 
the Menam, and arriving off the bar in a sinking state, might 
go down at her moorings before assistance could be procured, 
and would certainly have done so before any concession would 
have been made by the Government of the late King. There was 
a choice of evils left ; were the vessel in distress an opium 
trader, her only chance was to throw her unusually valuable 
cargo overboard, pay heavy dues on entering, incur heavy 
expenses in docking, be compelled to produce funds sufficient 
to purchase an outward cargo, or be freighted for a mere song by 
some avaricious Arab merchant ; or else to keep afloat as she 
best could till the storm abated, and if she could not, go down 
with all hands. Only imagine the delightful humour the owner 
would be in, in the last case. The cargo of opium was worth 
perhaps fifty thousand pounds ; the vessel was his own, and both 
it and the cargo well insured ; but the wretch of a captain, and 
those worthless fellows the crew (who, by the way, are ready to 
shed their blood in the service, and have oftentimes severe 
brushes with the Chinese on the Eastern coast), being overtaken 
by a dreadful hurricane, in which the vessel loses all her masts, 
has the bulwarks, boats, and half the crew washed away, springs 
a leak which is hourly gaming upon them, and, to complete the 
picture, the pumps are choked and utterly useless, in this 
dilemma, the captain, aided and abetted by his rascally crew (for 
so the merchant styles them), instead of quietly saying their" 
prayers, settling down with the vessel, and going peacefully to 
the bottom, and so securing the owner's interest, and cheating 
the insurance, actually have the audacity to think of setting up 
jury masts, and standing before the wind for Siam, where, luckily 
for themselves, they arrive in safety ; but, being aware of the 
stringent laws of the country, the first thing they do is to throw 
the opium overboard. The vessel we may suppose to be about 
300 tons burthen ; she pays her entrance duty, dock charges, &c ., 
and gets taken up for a lump sum to carry a cargo of sugars to 



184 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



Bombay, the freight on which amounts to somewhere about 
150?. Now the dockyard charges and tonnage dues amount to at 
least double that amount, and have been paid by the skipper on 
the guarantee of a bottomry bond ; hence the owner's entry of 
profit and loss that voyage runs nearly as follows : 



DR. 



s. d. 



CR. 



5. 



To Profit on Freight . 150 
Nett loss by damage 
to cargo, &c. of clip- 
per "Blazes" . .51,150 



51,300 



By loss on opium . . 50,000 
Damage to vessel . 1000 
Repairs and dues . 300 



51,300 



There are very few captains that would not rather meet fifty 
deaths than one owner after the receipt of such an account. 
None would be induced to run for Siam under existing circum- 
stances, unless he had made up his mind to run altogether from 
home, friends and his senses, and bidding adieu to Europe for ever, 
embrace the Siamese faith, eschew pleasure, turn priest and cele- 
brate a fanatical jig for the special behoof of the white elephants. 
Second : with regard to the import trade. Under existing 
circumstances it is very limited in comparison to what it 
might be, considering the dense population of the Siamese 
dominions) but the heavy taxation of the poorer classes places 
European manufacture and produce quite out of their reach, 
because the heavy duties levied upon imports compel mer- 
chants to retail these goods at exorbitant prices, so as to 
enable them to have a profit worthy of the risk and expense 
incurred in bringing these goods such a distance. But the fact 
speaks for itself when I say, that, notwithstanding the many 
drawbacks and the heavy stumbling-blocks in the shape of taxes 
and other duties placed as impediments in the way of a thriving 
commerce, Bangkok and its immediate neighbourhood afford a 
ready market for a by no means meagre supply of British stuffs ; 
a proof that the profit accruing on the original valuation of goods 
must be enormous indeed, as it enables the merchant to pocket 
a respectable nett profit, after the freight, and insurance, and 



EXTENSION OF COMMEECE WITH SIAM. 185 

innumerable local dues are deducted from the price current at 
Bangkok. The same argument will hold good with respect to 
the articles of export trade. Great indeed must be the gain upon 
these in European markets when we consider that they also are 
not only liable to all the drawback enumerated in the import 
trade, but in addition to, and over and above all these, most of the 
staple articles of the Siamese produce are grown or are collected 
many hundred miles in the interior, and their prime cost value 
must therefore, of necessity, be considerably augmented by the 
expenses of inland carriage, both by land and water, before 
reaching the market at Bangkok. 

Now a remedy to all the foregoing evils presents itself by the 
supreme power of the realm having devolved upon a man open 
to every practicable suggestion for the cause of humanity, the 
amelioration of the condition of the natives, and for the extension 
of Siamese commerce. A favourable opportunity thus presents 
itself for the laying of a firm foundation for friendly and com- 
mercial intercourse with a nation heretofore but little known to 
Europe in general, an intercourse which would inevitably open 
a new market for every manufactory in the United Kingdom, 
by drawing from them constant supplies of every imaginable 
article requisite both for the luxury and comfort of a vast and 
almost wholly unexplored empire ; at the same time that the 
security afforded to travellers would add vastly to our store of 
science, by affording us a knowledge of places and races of men, 
of birds, beasts, fishes, vegetable and animal productions, yet 
unheard of, as new as they may prove immensely useful : and the 
sense, the touch, the taste, the sight, in short every virtuous 
appetite tending to moral pleasure, be gratified and delighted by 
flowers, fruits, &c., up to this day a mystery to the inquisitive 
mind of man. 

By the exercise of a little engineering skill, and at a small 
expense, the entrance to the Menam might be greatly improved. 
The banks are composed of sand and clay, closely set, and these 
by the great ebb of water at the lowest tide are left for several 



186 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

hours high and dry. It would be easy therefore, either to con- 
struct a permanent channel navigable at all hours by vessels of the 
largest tonnage, or else a more simple method, and one attended 
with much less expense would be, to erect two pillars of stone or 
iron, whichever may be thought best, to indicate that part of the 
bank where the greatest depth of water may be had, and between 
these pillars, serving as beacon gates, any vessel may, in cases 
of emergency, run aground should the water be too low to pass 
over, and wait for a returning tide to float her into the river. 
These pillars might be marked with figures indicating the depth 
of water, and from surveying which any vessel anchored in the 
roadstead may, without the aid of a pilot, and by a simple 
knowledge of their own draught of water, enter the mouth of 
the Menam as the tide served. These pillars might be so 
constructed as to serve for light-houses during the night, and 
the original cost and expenses of keeping them in repair, &c., 
be amply repaid, and yield an abundant surplus, by levying a 
small toll on every vessel and junk that entered the river. A 
very convenient and commodious dock-yard, and one in every 
way sheltered, might be easily constructed a few miles above 
Pakman. And between that town and Paklo Belo, vessels 
arriving with cargoes damaged might land all the goods, 
have them warehoused, and well-aired, and undergo whatever 
operations were necessary in very little more than a week ; 
thus, at the same time that a valuable ship and cargo 
would be saved from utter destruction, the local government 
would derive emolument from the tolls levied in the shape of 
dock and lighthouse dues, &c., while merchants and private 
individuals would likewise reap benefit from wharfage, ware- 
housing, porterage, and many other indispensable expenses both 
incidental and necessary. Provision merchants would likewise 
drive a thriving trade, and be induced, under the milder sway 
of Chou-Faa, to form a branch establishment at Pulo Obi for 
the supply of vessels bound to and from the Straits of Malacca. 
Many vessels would prefer, when the monsoons admitted, 



CAPABILITIES OF SIAM. 



187 



stocking their vessels with poultry and other requisites at Pulo 
Obi, though a little way out of their direct course, because 
the prices charged at Singapore are very exorbitant, the old 
saying in the Straits being that " no one can open his mouth at 
Singapore without paying a dollar ! " 

It is generally believed in Siam that the river Menam is, 
with the exception of the immediate neighbourhood of Yuthia, a 
deep and navigable stream, and one on which a steamer could 
with great ease ply to and fro, provided coal dep6ts were 
established at stations along the river side. What mines may 
exist in the unexplored interior is yet a mystery, but there is no 
reason to suppose that so vast an extent of territory is utterly 
void of these riches of nature, and possibly in the more northern 
provinces coal strata may exist. If colliers, however, find it 
expedient and profitable to carry coals from Newcastle round the 
Cape of Good Hope to Aden, there is no reason why Siam should 
not hold out an equal inducement. When steam engines are there 
introduced, and steamers as well as steam mills, and eventually, 
I have little doubt, railways, are brought into operation, this 
navigation of the Menam would throw open a vast field to public 
enterprise. There is no reason to doubt that, yielding as the 
interior does such a vast supply of the sugar-cane, sugar factories 
and rum distilleries would quickly rise alongside the banks 
of the river. In the northern provinces the mulberry tree could 
be cultivated to advantage, and Siamese silk in a few years 
be brought to rival the produce of the China markets in Europe. 
Here European machinery and steam-power engines would form 
an essential article of the Siamese import trade from Great 
Britain. If tea is successfully cultivated in Assam, there is 
reason to hope that its introduction into Siam would be attended 
with a like happy result ; and the coffee plant, which flourishes 
in all luxuriance on parts of the Malabar coast, might, at inland 
plantations, well irrigated by the Menam, arrive with care to 
great perfection. Indigo and cotton would be equally successful ; 
and if the gutta-percha that treasure-trove of the Straits 



188 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

remained hidden from the inquisitive inquiries of speculative 
merchants, naturalists, and travellers, through a long series of 
years, during which period the Straits may be said to have been 
in a comparative state of civilisation, and was at length revealed 
to the public through the medium of a young medical officer, we 
are justified in supposing that a country inhabited wholly by a 
benighted people may have many valuable productions which may 
hereafter yield to the force of minute and persevering investigation. 
Few countries are richer than Siam as regards produce suited 
for and sought after in European markets, and few countries 
afford a wider field for the acquisition of wealth, as well as of 
useful and agreeable knowledge. The facilities now afforded 
to enterprise are very great, and it would be much to be 
lamented that any other European power should forestall us in 
seizing such an advantageous opportunity. The wild beasts 
of the forest would supply us with very many valuable skins and 
very valuable ivory ; the trees themselves yield a great variety of 
gums, and spices, and dyes ; the fields and banks of the river, 
rice, pepper, tobacco, sugar, spices, and eventually rum, tea, 
coffee, and a vast supply of silks, both raw and manufactured. 




COFFEE PLANT 



SHOOTING EXCURSION. 



189 



CHAPTER XII. 

Shooting Excursion." The Friends ' " Cutter. Fishing for Pomphleta Landing at 
Pigeon Island. Description of the Island. Shooting Pigeons. Government 
Dispatch Boxes. Amusing adventure with one. Fire at Bangkok. Attack on 
Mr. Hunter's house. Breaking out of the Cholera. Author returns home. 




into requisition. 



UEING my stay at Bangkok 
when there was nothing which 
demanded our presence on the 
spot, and this was not unfre- 
quently the case, Mr. Hunter 
used to make up pleasant little 
parties of pleasure, on which 
occasions his beautiful little 
cutter, the "Friends," was put 
The " Friends " was about 
thirty tons burthen, commanded by an ugly 
black little Siamese sailor that we commonly 
christened "Captain Jack." Captain Jack could 
speak a little broken English, and could sing one 
verse of "Rule Britannia," accomplishments of which 
he was not a little proud ; and nothing was more insult- 
ing to his feelings than to address him in his own native dialect. 
His invariable reply to such an affront used to be, "Me speak more 
better Inglise as you speak Siamese," a fact which I am con- 
strained to confess was truth itself; for, with the exception of 
Mr. H, very few of us could ever attain anything approaching 
to an efficient knowledge of that most barbarous tongue. 



190 KESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

On one occasion when there was a perfect stagnation in trade, 
and politics were calmly reposing, a fishing and shooting ex- 
cursion was planned. We were to start from Bangkok in the 
" Friends," and without any stoppages on the way, proceed direct 
to the mouth of the river, and sailing out into the bay, run 
alongside of the " John Panter," a fine English bark, lying at 
anchor off the bar, waiting a cargo of sugar which was expected 
from the interior. The " John Panter " was commanded by a 
very estimable young Welshman, Captain Harris, and it was to 
pick him up and take him with us that we were to call alongside. 
The morning we started from Bangkok was unpropitious in the 
extreme to our plans and expectations of amusement ; it rained, 
blew, and thundered, but nothing could damp our ardour, and 
in the midst of this brewing squall, much to the disgust of 
Captain Jack, who had to bear all the brunt of the affair, we set 
sail, and sped rapidly down the river. The " Friends " had a 
very comfortable cabin, with eight commodious berths for pas- 
sengers, a fine long table, and seats all round it, formed by the 
locker, inside of which the good things of this earth the edibles 
and drinkables were carefully stowed away. The cabin had 
small windows or portholes all round it, which made it nice and 
airy so long as we were in pretty smooth water ; but when the 
sea was at all rough, then these portholes were hermetically 
closed, and the cabin was quite in the dark, till the little swinging 
globe was lit of an evening. It continued to blow and rain till 
past three o'clock in the afternoon, and then the " Friends," a 
regular little clipper for sailing, had made such progress, that we 
were in sight of the little floating fortress of Paknam. The sun 
now shone out brilliantly, and the evening was fresh and cool, 
and everything around looked so pleasant and smelt so sweet, 
that our spirits were quite enlivened by the prospects of a very 
delightful jaunt. Arriving alongside the "John Panter," it 
was put to the vote and unanimously carried that we do sup 
and sleep on board of the "John Panter" that night, and 
next morning, after imbibing certain coffees, proceed on our 



AMUSEMENTS AT PIGEON ISLAND. 191 

expedition to Pigeon Island, one of a little group situated a few 
miles off the eastern shore of the gulf, or rather bay, and which 
was just discernible from the ship's deck. The " Friends " was 
anchored astern of the vessel, and a stout rope passed to her for 
better security should it come on to blow during the night. A 
very large quantity of guns and fishing tackle were now handed 
up and ranged in fierce array against the vessel's poop; and 
whilst some tried to catch fish for supper from the fish that were 
sporting alongside, others tried their hands at knocking over 
gulls on the wing. Thus the evening closed in, and about as 
many gulls were shot as fish were gulled, somewhere about 
half-a-dozen. 

The next morning we started at about seven for Pigeon 
Island, and a very beautiful, bright morning it was. There was 
just a nice little land breeze sufficient to carry us rapidly 
through the water, and the sea was so smooth and calm, that we 
could see the sandy bottom distinctly, and amused ourselves by 
watching the shoals of little fish that kept sporting about in the 
sunlight. Those who fished, met with very great success, and 
more than one of those delicacies known in India as "pamphlets" 
was hooked up for our breakfast. There was no mistake about 
their being fresh, for not five minutes elapsed from the time 
when they were sporting merrily in the water, before they 
were dished up for breakfast. No qualms of conscience with 
regard to their untimely end, started up, like a nightmare, to 
take the keen edge off our appetites, and under the kindly shade 
spread over the deck by the mainsail, the good things set before 
us rapidly disappeared. As the day advanced, the heat in- 
creased, and we were ultimately obliged to seek refuge in the 
" Friends' " cabin. About one p. m. the cutter was brought-to off 
Pigeon Island, and then we found to our consternation that the 
water had ebbed so low, that there was no possibility of reaching 
the shore before the next high tide, which might, or might not 
be in six or twelve hours from that time. This was beyond all 
endurance, so we determined, coute gui coute, to get on shore if 



192 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

we perished in the attempt. No sooner said than put into 
execution. So taking off our shoes and stockings, away we 
started on this very ludicrous expedition. One foot out of the 
vessel and into the mud ankle deep ; immediately another foot 
out of the vessel, and the whole weight of the body brought to 
bear on the mud knee-deep in a second. A violent effort to get 
the right foot disentangled, a dreadful struggle to do ditto with 
the left foot, and this kind of work continued for nearly twenty 
minutes. The moment we stopped for breath, we felt ourselves 
rapidly sinking, and would doubtless have sunk up to the neck, 
if we had halted long to repose ourselves ; and all this time with 
a heavy double-barrelled " Manton" on one's shoulders. "With a 
broiling sun overhead, against the rays of which straw hats were 
a poor protection, and a nasty, clammy mud reaching above one's 
knees, our condition was indeed ridiculously deplorable. But 
there was no help but to go a-head as rapidly as one could ; and 
I found that by rapid movements of the legs I sank not half so 
deep in the clay as when I was creeping along at a snail's pace. 
Oh, that interminable, wretched half-hour of misery ! The 
distance from the boat to the shore was about a hundred and 
fifty yards ; and, this length of suffering completed, we reached 
the sandy beach, exhausted and faint, with feet and legs lacerated 
by sharp bits of shells and seaweed, and in the most filthy state 
of mud that the mind can picture. There, stretched at full 
length, under the shade of a blessed old tamarind tree, our party 
sought repose, whilst the villagers, like a family of good 
Samaritans, brought us chatties (jars) of water, which they 
threw over our feet, pouring water, and not ointment, into our 
wounds. This proceeding refreshed us a little ; a glass ot 
Hodgson's pale ale refreshed us a little more ; and, in about half 
an hour's time, *we were enabled to put on our stockings and 
shoes again, and venture into the village, where the head-man, 
who had known Mr. Hunter through a quarter of a century, 
received and lodged us with great hospitality during the week 
that we remained at Pigeon Island. 



SCENERY OF PIGEON ISLAND. 193 

Pigeon Island is the Siamese name interpreted, but the name 
of the place in Siamese, I have entirely forgotten, for the reason 
that I never was able to pronounce it. It was a name of about 
twenty letters, with hardly a single consonant in it, something 
likellioueuouauay only not half so short. In a most delightful 
situation, full four miles distant from the nearest shore, this island 
had a reputation for being the healthiest spot in that part of 
the world. And the natives certainly gave ample proofs of their 
being in a state of perfect salubrity. Pigeon Island is only three 
miles in circumference ; but of these three miles, there is hardly 
a foot of ground that is not devoted to agricultural purposes. 
Flowers grew in perfect hedges the China rose, the maliapoo, 
or red-stalk jessamine, the sweet-smelling cassia, and that most 
odoriferous of all odoriferous flowers, the bell passion-flower ; 
these mingled their sweetness with the freshly-mown hay, and 
made the early hours of morning feel like moments snatched 
from paradise, such as the depraved mind of man could conceive 
to have been the every-day enjoyment of Adam and Eve in their 
pristine innocence. 

The dew was sparkling on the leaf, 

Now tinged with golden light ! 
As all things fair are but too brief, 

So these pure gems of night, 
Like tears from some kind angel shed, 

Fell glistening from above ; 
They mourned the night too quickly fled, 

As we mourn those we love. 



But some, more happy in their doom, 

Amongst the fair flowers fell ; 
And midst their sweetness sought a tomb 

The rose and the blue-bell. 
These fondly in their bosoms sought 

To nurture them awhile, 
But Life's with hidden dangers fraught, 

Tho' Nature seems to smile. 
A thoughtless child, in sportive play, 

Plucked these fair flowers of morn ; 
And so their brightness passed away, 

As passes early dawn. 



194 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

And then to see the fruit trees bowed down with their rich 
offering the cashoemit and apple, the callacca and the bilimby, 
the ramboteen and the sour-sop, the custard apple and the 
pomegranate, and lastly, that prince of all earthly fruits, the 
mangostein. This was a luxurious sight. All the gifts of 
Heaven seemed blended together in this little island. At least, 
so the birds seemed to say, for I am persuaded their hearts were 
grateful and happy, or they never could have sung so sweetly 
as they were all singing that morning. Even the old thief of a 
crow, who was perched on the palm-tree close by the side of the 
house, and who was yesterday convicted by our host of a felony, 
even he, noisy old rogue that he generally was, had got his 
head knowingly cocked on one side, evidently admiring the 
music of the other birds in silent attention, at the same time 
that his eyes were fixed upon our breakfast. Swarms of 
tiny little avrivats now arrive, and the confusion and noise 
they create put a stop to the other songsters. They are for 
all the world like so many imbecile old women who are 
labouring under the wretched hallucination that they once had 
a daughter, a very virtuous young woman, who behaved very ill 
in after life ; and her ingratitude is the theme of their conver- 
sation and dreams for the rest of their lives. These avrivats go 
over the same notes a hundred thousand times ; they must be 
repeating the same sentences over and over again ; and as they 
are so chatty upon this subject, depend upon it, it is scandal they 
are discussing. If they were not so very beautiful in plumage, 
I should be inclined to believe in transmigration, and look upon 
them as sorrowing, defunct old maids. There is a frightful 
screaming in the air, of very many parrots bound on a thieving 
expedition to rob some orchard. Noisy, little fierce-looking 
squirrels, with their tails cocked up in the air, and stolen 
property between their fore-paws, are alternately crunching a 
bit of some nut, and squealing defiance to one another. The 
melancholy, loving wooing of the turtle dove resounds from the 
distant little wood, and large flights of blue mountain pigeons 



HOUSES AND INHABITANTS OF PIGEON ISLAND. 195 

warn us that we must be up and doing, and so we leave our host 
to the enjoyment of his otium cum dig. in solitude, and saunter 
through the very picturesque little lanes of the village. 

The houses are separated from each other, as they are 
connected with distinct little farms, to each of which is attached 
a fruit, vegetable, and flower garden. There is no taste 
displayed in the arrangement of these, but Nature is very bounti- 
ful, and there is a something extremely beautiful in the wild 
luxurious richness and profusion with which the plants grow. 
Very little nurturing do they require from the hand of man ; 
the heavy dews of night moisten the earth, and add fresh vigour 
to the sap of the trees and plants, and the heat of the sun 
reaches them only through the protruding canopy of leaves. 
Poultry was abundant, especially ducks ; and as for China pigs 
and pigglings, there were as many as would support a regiment 
of hungry soldiers for a month. Here also were milch cows 
and oxen, and bulls, and a few very unhappy looking sheep. 
The latter were quite a novelty to us again, for in Bangkok 
they are never to be seen, and the man that asked for milk to 
use with his tea or coffee would be immediately set down as 
perfectly insane. There was a fine spring of water that made 
quite a little stream before reaching the sea ; and on either side 
of this stream were erected the wooden habitations of the 
inhabitants. We entered several of the houses and found them 
exceedingly neat and clean ; the women were much prettier 
than the Siamese, and wore their hair in long tresses hanging 
over their backs and shoulders. They were principally Burmese 
by origin, who, having intermixed with Siamese, had become 
naturalised, although they still retained the costumes and customs 
of their native land. Emerging from the village we came out 
upon the paddy, or rice fields, and leaving these to our left we 
skirted a rich pasturage ground, and entered into the little 
forest that has been permitted by the natives to stand, as it 
affords shelter for the cattle and the labourer during the intense 
heat of the hottest part of the day. 

o 2 



196 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

An incredible number of parrots were perched on the banian 
trees, devouring the species of wild Indian fig that that tree 
produces ; but it was utterly impossible to distinguish them 
from the green leaves of the trees. Our only chance was to 
station ourselves round the trees a few yards distant from them, 
and then one party gave a shout and threw a lot of pebbles 
amongst the leaves ; this was the signal for a general scattering, 
and as crowds flew out in every direction we had excellent sport, 
firing in amongst them, and many a hard bite, that made us howl 
again with pain, did we get in our attempts to capture the 
wounded birds alive. They had such fearfully sharp beaks that 
unless we were very adroit in seizing them by the scruff of the 
neck, our fingers were sure to suffer ; this was no easy job, for 
the parrots when they saw there was no chance of flight turned 
themselves upon their backs and defended themselves with their 
claws and beak, fighting with great bravery for their liberty ; 
but we soon found out a method of circumventing them by 
thrusting the dead birds foremost, which they immediately 
clutched firmly, and then we dropped them both together into 
the recesses of a capacious game bag, that was carried by Captain 
Jack, and very proud and delighted the old fellow was at being 
permitted to accompany us on this shooting expedition. Towards 
evening large flights of pigeons, which had been feeding on the 
opposite coast, began to flock home to their nests and roosting 
places in the islands ; we stationed ourselves at the extreme 
point of a narrow neck of land which ran out into the sea, and 
from this spot we picked the pigeons off as they passed over- 
head, and by nightfall Captain Jack had a pretty good burden 
to carry home. Some days we amused ourselves in fishing 
and paddling out a little distance to sea, to a snug little cove 
that lay on one side of the island, where we let our lines over and 
caught what we could. Prawns and crabs were abundant at 
this island, but I never, either here or at Bangkok, saw anything 
in the shape of an oyster, or even a lobster. 

Thus about as pleasant a week as I had ever spent flitted 



SIAMESE DESPATCH. 197 

rapidly over our heads, and just as amusements began to get 
monotonous tlie time to which, we had limited ourselves was 
up, and leaving Pigeon Island and its inhabitants to their accus- 
tomed quiet routine of life, and the birds to the undisturbed 
possession of their haunts for both had been sadly interrupted 
by our most unexpected invasion we set sail for Bangkok one 
Saturday evening, and arrived there early the following Monday 
morning. 

Shortly after our re turn the "John Panter" was reported ready 
to sail for Singapore and Bombay. All were occupied in writing 
letters to be sent by this opportunity, and even his Siamese Majesty 
summoned his most learned scribes into his presence and made 
them concoct a despatch to his Excellency the Governor of Singa- 
pore (then the present Sir George Bonham), in which letter, after 
the usual most affectionate inquiries after health, &c., his Majesty 
communicated some secret political information relative to the 
declaration of war against Cochin China, and begged for informa- 
tion and advice. This long despatch was put into about a dozen 
highly scented envelopes, of different coloured satin, and then 
these were deposited at the bottom of a goodly-sized fine wicker 
basket a basket about the size usually used for fruit and then 
this basket, with the letters in it, was put into a large silk bag, 
highly decorated with flowers worked in silver and gold ; the 
ribbons at the top were then drawn tight, securely closing the bag 
and both ends fastened together with sealing wax, and sealed 
with the large seal of state, thus preventing the possibility of 
any one getting an inkling of his Majesty's state secrets, save 
and except the Governor of Singapore, for whose confidential 
perusal they were intended. I had charge of this letter from 
Bangkok to the outside of the bar, and the "Friends" was kindly 
lent me by Mr. H. to take me to the " John Panter," and bring 
me back again, and a pretty mess I nearly made. Captain Jack 
was too valuable to Mr. H. to be spared at all times, and on the 
present occasion the " Friends" was entrusted to the charge of a 
man who did not exactly understand how to manage her. 



198 KESIDENCE IN SI AM. 

Besides myself and the crew of the vessel, there was an unfortu- 
nate second mate of a Bombay ship that had lately arrived, and 
was at anchor outside the river. The poor man had been sent 
to collect some freight due to the vessel, and having completed 
his job was returning with a handkerchief full of Spanish dollars 
in either pocket of his great heavy pea-jacket ; we had just 
crossed the bar, and were within half a mile of the shipping, 
when, seeing me bring up this extraordinary letter bag, he begged 
permission to look at it, and whilst he was inspecting it aft, near 
the man at the helm, I, by a lucky chance for myself, happened 
to go down into the cabin for something or other, when all of a 
sudden the " Friends " pitched completely on her beam-ends, 
and I heard the crash of something being carried away, which 
was instantly followed by a loud splash, and a cry of horror from 
the deck. On rushing up to see what was the matter, I found 
that the large main boom of the cutter had suddenly jibed, from 
the man at the helm having, by his bad steering, luffed her up, 
till she was caught right aback with a stiff sea-breeze blowing 
at the time, and the boom, in the force of its swing, had knocked 
the poor second mate overboard, in all probability breaking his 
ribs with the blow. Whether or not the poor fellow ever rose 
to the water's surface again and the great weight of money in 
his pockets was all-sufficient to sink him like a stone I never 
ascertained. We put the " Friends " about instantly, and hove 
her to, close where he had gone down, for the spot was indicated 
by an eddy in the water, and his straw hat floated close by. 
The accident had been seen from the ships, and boats were 
immediately despatched to our succour, but all in vain. A sea- 
gull that had been hovering over the spot alighted where the 
eddy had ceased to mark the poor young sailor's premature 
grave, and his hat was all that remained to remind us of him who 
had but so lately been our cheerful happy companion. I found 
the letter bag close to the tiller box, where, in all likelihood, the 
poor mate had thrown it to liberate his hands in his efforts to 
save himself from his sad fate. 



FIRE AT BANGKOK. 199 

Once during my prolonged sojourn at Bangkok 1 witnessed 
a fire on the river which threatened destruction to the whole 
city, and all the ships and other craft in harbour. A great deal 
of cocoa-nut oil is consumed by the Siamese for cooking and 
other purposes, and generally speaking each house is provided 
with one or more large-mouthed jars full of this ingredient for 
home consumption, consisting of inflammable matter. As the 
houses are constructed, it cannot be a matter of surprise that 
fire as easily catches as it is difficult to be extinguished. A 
careless party of boys who were fishing in the river by torch- 
light suffered the canoe to approach so near to some of the 
floating houses in one of those narrow little passages (which 
I have before alluded to as detrimental to the salubrity of the 
city, from the vast amount of filth there accumulated), that the 
torch ignited the thatched roof of one of the houses, which was 
instantly all in a blaze. Snatching away the torch from the delin- 
quent's hand, who was wholly unaware of the mischief he had 
committed, another of the boys made an effort to fling it into the 
water, hoping that it would be instantly extinguished, and thus 
leave no clue to the discovery of the perpetrators of the deed ; 
but in the struggle that ensued between the first boy, who 
imagined himself insulted, and the one who had snatched the 
torch away, the latter, in flinging it from his hand, missed his 
footing, and falling back into the water, sent the torch in an 
exactly opposite direction to what he had intended, and it, all 
blazing as it was, alighted on the roof of another house in the 
back row, and in less than two minutes a double row of streets 
was all in flames. The alarm of fire was instantly given by the 
Chinese junks in the harbour, who created a frightful din with 
their gongs, assisted in the noise by the bells of the European 
vessels. The watts in the neighbourhood caught up the strain, 
and eventually the great watt of the white elephant sounded its 
huge booming gong, which is somewhere about the size of a 
large round table. The city, which a few minutes before had 
been hushed in peaceful tranquillity, was now the scene of the 



.200 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

greatest confusion and noise imaginable. There was the mur- 
muring of thousands of voices, that came stealing upon the ear 
like the roar of distant water ; lights were instantly seen moving 
in every direction ; vessels were weighing their anchors or 
slipping their cables, and sailing up the river in the Yuthia 
direction, so as to be out of reach of the fast-approaching 
flames. The fire was on the opposite side of the water to our 
house, and appeared to us at that time to be not far from 
the Portuguese consulate ; but distant as it was, so bright were 
the flames, that the whole place was perfectly illuminated, and 
we could plainly distinguish the smallest boat moving on the 
river. All the Europeans on our side of the river were assembled 
at Mr. Hunter's wharf to witness this sad but grand spectacle, 
as also the American missionaries. One of these gentlemen, who 
was certainly never born to be a soldier, evinced the greatest 
symptoms of alarm and terror, though the fire was fully two 
miles away from us, and on the other side of the river ; but he 
had fifty horrid conjectures to make that some canoe, or boat, 
or vessel would come over all in flames, and ignite our side, and 
then his comfortable house and nice furniture would be all 
burnt. In the midst of these and many other lamentations of a 
very melancholy character, somebody chanced to ask him where 
Mrs. E. (his wife) and his children were. "Oh!" replied he, 
struck as it were all of a heap ! " well, I guess I quite forgat 
them ; I calculate they are asleep ; " and with this exclamation 
he bolted into his house, and opening the bed-room door, roared 
out "fire! " with all his might, and then bolted back to the jetty 
(wharf) again, looking as pale as though he had expected to find 
the wharf burnt down, and all means of escape cut off. His 
poor wife and children, who had been frightened nearly out of 
their wits, came tearing down to the jetty in the utmost alarm, 
and when the lady found the real state of affairs, she rated poor 
E. most soundly for his cowardliness, and for putting her into 
such an awkward predicament as to compel her to run out in 
what she called her she maizey (chemise). The ladies of the 



FIKE AT BANGKOK. 201 

party and the greater number of Yankees, finding there was no 
immediate danger to be apprehended to their lives and pro- 
perties, calculated that they would go to bed again, and 
accordingly went ; but as for brother R, no earthly inducement 
could prevail on him to return to his house. It was a grand 
sight indeed to see the swarms of people that lined the floating 
houses on either side of the banks of the river for miles and 
miles ; and when the King in his state barge came rowing down 
the river, as is his custom on any similar calamity, then in truth 
it was wonderful to see the prostrate thousands in attitudes 
similar to that of prayer, calling to the King to save them and 
their property from destruction, as though his supposed celestial 
influence could arrest the fiery element in its direful progress. 
How seldom alas ! do we see so much fervour and devotional faith 
in more enlightened but thoughtless professors of religion. The 
Mahometan will strictly follow up the ordinance of his creed ; 
the idolater be scrupulous in his prayers and offerings to the 
idol of his choice ; but the Christian, with all the good intentions 
of religion about him, is too apt to forget his Creator and best 
Benefactor. 

Thus did this simple and foolish people firmly believe that the 
interposition of their King was all-sufficient to keep them from 
harm, and to make the effect more impressive, the fire was 
almost instantly quelled by some of the court agents having 
resorted to the simple plan of cutting away the moorings of that 
row of houses that lay nearest to the flames, and these floating 
down the river, and kept off by men in boats with long poles, 
gradually gained the centre of the stream, when, being caught 
by the strong current setting in that direction, they were rapidly 
swept round a corner, and so disappeared. As for the flames, 
they burnt on till the last bit of timber of the last house was 
fairly consumed ; and then the gap occasioned by the water 
fairly quenched their mischievous ire, and all was dark night 
again. Even the Yankee was bold enough to venture back to 
bed ; and as for myself, I lay thinking over the events of that 



*5U^ RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

night. The distant cawing of crows warned me of the approach 
of day, and whilst meditating on the rash act of turning out 
again, I turned over on my side and so fell fast asleep. 

The morning after the fire we were all rather late at the 
breakfast table, discussing the probable amount of damage that 
had been sustained. An old Chinese merchant assured us, that 




INTERIOR OF A SIAMESE HOUSE. 



beyond the loss of a few pots and pans, no great detriment had 
been sustained ; and certainly eight days had not elapsed before 
the burnt houses had been replaced by gaudily-painted new 
ones. 

Shortly after the fire at Bangkok, we were subjected to a far 
more disagreeable nocturnal disturbance, which might have 



DISTURBANCE WITH ENGLISH SAILORS. 203 

terminated with, loss of life and much, bloodshed. Mr. Hunter 
happened to be absent from Bangkok on some mercantile busi- 
ness, and in his absence a vessel arrived from Liverpool, freighted 
with Manchester goods, and bringing us very many necessary 
additions to our household comforts, in the shape of wine, beer, 
hams, cheeses, &c. &c., and last, though not least, an acquisition to 
our small society in the shape of a young Englishman, a Mr. S., 
who had been in the West Indies, and had come to be manager 
of Mr. Hunter's house. The crew of this ship were about as 
great a collection of ruffians as could be assembled together, and 
the very first Sunday after their arrival they managed to smuggle 
on board a quantity of spirits, which one of them had very 
adroitly extracted from some of the newly landed barrels on 
shore. The natural result was, firstly, a great deal of hilarity ; 
and secondly, a great deal of boxing, in which latter the master 
and captain came in for their share ; finally, the last drop having 
been drained, the most "intoxicated man of the lot brought a 
pannikin on shore and filled it again, deliberately in the presence 
of us all. Mr. H., the junior partner, upon this accosted the 
man, and got grossly insulted in return. The servants were then 
summoned, and the pilferer was by main force carried off to 
prison, and there locked up till he should be sober. The barrels 
were removed to a more secure spot, and the unconscious crew 
were eagerly waiting the return of their companion ; at length 
losing all patience, they sallied forth in search of him, and great 
indeed was their indignation to discover that he was safely 
locked up in prison. They threatened to set fire to the house, 
and finding their menaces treated with contempt, they sallied 
jorth in search of more ardent spirit, which they procured from 
the natives in large quantities, and when wound up to a perfect 
pitch of frenzy, they went on board and armed themselves with 
cutlasses and boarding pikes, determined at the cost of their 
lives to deliver their quondam friend from durance vile. It 
would seem that it was not the first time that such a rescue 
had been attempted at Mr. H.'s house in Bangkok. The junior 



201 RESIDENCE IN SI AM. 

partner was quite an expert general, for, availing himself of the 
cruise the crew were having amongst the natives, he caused 
every grain of powder in the ship to be landed, and hid in his 
own warehouse, and, had time permitted, would have brought 
all arms away. It was a most unpleasant position to be in ; 
obliged to defend one's life and property against a large body 
of drunken ruffians, who, at the best moments, were a plotting 
and murderous set ; and again on the other hand, incurring the 
risk of imbuing one's hands with human blood, and the 
unpleasant results and reflections consequent thereon. Mr. 
H.'s house had a high wall in front, with a strong gateway 
at either end ; these were duly closed and barred at sunset, 
and nothing but a sailor t>r a monkey could ever climb over 
them. Darkness set in, and the junior partner summoning all 
his servants, told them to light a large wood fire under the 
wall on the inside of the garden, the house being kept in utter 
darkness, so that though we could distinctly discern all move- 
ments outside, the sailors could see nothing of us, and 
we thus escaped being exposed to a shower of stones or 
missiles. About eight at night we were regularly besieged 
by these intoxicated and infuriated seamen. H. warned them 
that the first man that climbed over the wall should be shot. 
Little regarding this threat, which they laughed at and derided, 
they with one wild shout made for the wall, and one man, 
unluckily for himself, more active than the rest, actually scaled 
it, and was in the act of dropping into the garden, when young 
H. presented his fowling-piece at him, and taking deliberate 
aim, fired. The guns were loaded with shot, but this was a 
secret known only to ourselves. The loud report of the fowling- 
piece was followed by the sound of something heavy falling to 
the ground, and immediately the cry of " I'm shot," with heavy 
groans, filled the air. The crew, who were as dastardly as they 
were vicious, immediately retreated to the ship, leaving their 
fallen comrade to get away as he best could. The man, how- 
ever, smarting from what he naturally imagined to be a death- 



AUTHOR LEAVES SIAM. 205 

wound in the chest, never attempted to stir, and Mr. H.'s 
servants carried him into one of the magazines, where he was 
placed on a bed, and in the interval I was despatched to fetch 
the doctor. This was no easy job, as 1 had to climb over the 
roofs of houses, so as to avoid coming into contact with any of 
the sailors, and the doctor had, at the risk of bruising his shins, 
to come back with me by the same agreeable mode of travelling. 
The wounds proved trivial, and only skin deep ; and next 
morning Mr. Hunter, on his return to Bangkok, had all the 
ringleaders arrested, and sent them down in chains, on board 
a Siamese man-of-war, to Singapore, there to vindicate their 
conduct as they best could before Sir George Bonham, then 
governor of the Straits. The Prince Chou Faa, having heard of 
our situation, very kindly came to our rescue, but when he 
arrived everything was at an end the riot quelled the piratical 
crew fast asleep, and the wounded prisoner safely locked up for 
the night. 

This was the last adventure I had at Siam. Soon after, 
the cholera again brought desolation with it, and having had a 
slight attack I thought it safest and this was also the doctor's 
opinion to decamp, which I did in the greatest hurry, leaving 
my friends and employment behind, and proceeding to Singa- 
pore as a passenger in the Bombay brig " Kusrovie." Thence, 
I visited Penang once again, and finally, arriving at Madras on 
the 2nd January, 1842, I quitted that Presidency and India 
on the 7th of February in the same year, happy to think 
that I, amongst the thousands in the East, had been spared to 
revisit my native land again. 



206 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 




CHAPTER XIII. 

A BRIEF SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF SIAM. 

the History of Siam previous to 
the visit of the French Embassy, 
in the seventeenth century, it 
is scarcely possible to obtain any 
accurate particulars. The Siamese 
themselves pretend that their re- 
cords go as far back as the year 
1300 of our era, at which time a 
king reigned, bearing the very hard 
and heavy name of Pra-Poat-houne 
Sourritep-pennaratui Louanne Bopitra. Of him and his successors, 
for three hundred years, exceedingly little is known. The principal 
object which these various monarchs seem to have pursued, or, at 
all events, that to which their historians appear to have attached 
the most importance, was to build new capital cities, and transport 
the people en masse from the old towns to the new. What histo- 
rical or other facts may be concealed under this statement, it is 
somewhat difficult to conjecture. Despotic as these kings of Siam 
always appear to have been, it is extremely improbable that 
they would be always desiring to change the seat of government 
out of mere caprice, nor could they exercise their power so 
effectually as entirely to depopulate the old towns. The king 
and his people must both have wished for these removals, and it 
is highly probable that the real history of that period would 



SIAMESE HISTORY. 207 

disclose to us interesting, though they might be painful, pictures 
of loss of life, by floods in the Menam, by ravaging pestilences, 
and, most probably, by both foreign and civil wars. The city of 
Yuthia was built and made the capital by King Bhamatitondi, in 
the year 1594, and it remained the capital of the kingdom down to 
the close of the last century. During the period between 1300 and 
1594, it is said that twenty-six kings reigned, which would be on 
an average about eleven years to each reign, but what these 
kings did, whether they succeeded each other quietly, whether 
they died natural or violent deaths, are circumstances which 
we of Europe will never in all probability know, or gain even an 
idea of, unless we choose to pin our faith to such veracious men 
as Mendez Pinto. 

The first clear point that shows itself in their history is in the 
year 1568, when the country was invaded and made tributary by 
a Burmese king, named Mandanagri. This monarch seems to 
have been a great warrior, for he extended his dominions as far 
as the confines of China, and appears to have lived a Napoleon 
sort of life. The Siamese say that the invading army which 
accompanied him consisted of a million and a half of men, and 
that so bravely was the capital city defended against this mighty 
host, that it was only through the treachery of one of the 
inhabitants that the place was taken. The real truth would 
most probably give a very different estimate of the numbers of 
this army, and the mode in which Yuthia capitulated. It is 
worthy of notice that in this army were found two thousand 
Portuguese soldiers, well disciplined and accustomed to war, 
commanded by " the brave Don Diego Suanes." These troops, 
like the celebrated Scotch Legion that served under Gustavus 
Adolphus during the thirty years' war, were hired mercenaries, 
who doubtless contributed much to the success of the Burmese 
arms, but who, in all probability, would have fought as soon on 
the Siamese side if they had been offered higher pay. This is 
not the only instance where we meet Portuguese soldiers serving in 
the armies of the East in this manner. Don Diego Suanes seems to 



208 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

have been a brave man, and to have been consulted in all important 
matters, military matters at least, by the Burmese king. To grace 
his triumphal march home, Mandanagri carried away with him 
the Queen of Siam and her two sons, probably desirous to have 
some hostages for the due payment of the tribute under which 
Siam had been laid. The two princes, were, however, permitted 
to return a few years afterwards, and in 1583 their captor died. 
His successor was obliged to dispute the possession of the throne 
with an uncle, and the King of Siam seized the opportunity to 
declare himself independent. The immediate consequence of 
this was another invasion of Siam, in which the invaders were 
completely overthrown, and two hundred thousand of them said 
to have been killed. A more formidable army was, however, 
sent under the command of the Burmese king's eldest son. One 
of the princes who had been led into captivity was now King of 
Siam. He was, when young, known by the name of the " Black 
Prince," and appears to have been as brave, daring, and successful 
as the English Edward who bears the same title, for, undismayed 
by the numbers and power of his opponents, he attacked the 
enemy, routed them in a pitched battle, and slew the leader with 
his own hands. Nay, he went so far as to invade his opponent's 
territory, and laid siege to the capital of Pegu ; but he was obliged 
to retire to Siam, with considerable loss. 

This prince died in 1605, and his brother, surnamed the 
White King, succeeded him. He was very unlike his brother ; 
and during his reign, which lasted five years, the country seems 
to have been at peace. His second son succeeded him, but not 
without an attempt being made by one of the nobles, (whose con- 
spiracy was discovered and he himself executed,) to usurp the 
sovereignty. This nobleman held a high position in the country, 
and by some means had obtained possession of two hundred and 
eighty natives of Japan, who served him as slaves. These men, 
after their master had been put to death, ran in a body to the 
palace, surprised the King, and compelled him to deliver up 
four of the principal nobles who they supposed were concerned 



SIAMESE EMBASSIES TO GOA. 209 

in their master's death. These nobles were immediately mur- 
dered, and the King was compelled to sign with his own blood 
such conditions as the Japanese proposed. They then com- 
mitted great abuses, seized on much treasure, and departed 
from the country. 

About ten years after this, the Siamese sent ambassadors to 
Goa, the principal station of the Portuguese in the East Indies. 
This appears to have been in consequence of some embassy 
previously sent to Siam ; and the chief point to be noticed 
regarding it was, an offer to the Portuguese of a port on the 
Siamese coast, where they might establish themselves and build 
a fort. The ambassadors were splendidly entertained, and a 
Dominican friar sent to accompany them back with costly 
presents. This friar found the King much more liberal in his 
ideas than subsequent ambassadors have found any other 
Siamese King. He agreed to allow the Portuguese merchants 
to resort to his ports, and be exempt from all duties. Another 
embassy was sent to Goa in 1621, requesting the Portuguese to 
send some holy fathers to preach the gospel in the kingdom of 
Siam. The request was complied with ; and it is said the King 
built a church at his own expense, in which Christianity was 
preached by some Franciscans. This King, however, fell a 
victim to a very curious conspiracy. From four to five hundred 
Japanese were brought into the country by the conspirator, who 
was one of the most influential noblemen of the country, and 
so well and successfully did he use them that he speedily 
dethroned the monarch, and reigned in his stead. The Japanese 
soon became a kind of Pretorian guard, or Janissaries ; and 
their power increased to such an extent that the usurper felt 
very uneasy, and his son had to disband them altogether. This 
is another of those incidental circumstances that are constantly 
arising out of some dark history like the present, for which in 
vain we seek for an explanation that, if procured, would be of 
the utmost interest. Were these men really natives of Japan ? 
Were they taken from their own country by force, or did they go 

p 



210 BESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

willingly I What state was Japan in at the time ? Were they 
honest men, or were they the refuse and scum of society, to 
whom the lines of the poet might be applied 

" True patriots they, for be it understood, 
They left their country for their country's good." 

Japan is and has long been such a sealed book to the nations 
of Europe, and its inhabitants have so long been regarded some- 
what as people who live on the world but do not belong to it, 
that one is rather surprised to find them here, for the second 
time, playing so prominent a part in Siamese history. 

However, the Japanese disappear from the scene, and we are 
left to grope in the dark for some years ; until suddenly, like 
passengers emerging from a railway tunnel into the light of a 
sunny day, we find, in the year 1 657, a king reigning under the 
title of Chau Naraya, during whose reign occurred many of the 
events most interesting to us as Europeans, and who, from 
all accounts, was a man worthy of esteem and respect, and a 
king deserving praise for justice, wisdom and humanity. He 
came to the throne when Siam was in a most unsettled state ; 
and scarcely had he commenced to reign, when revolts broke 
out in many parts of the country. All these he quelled with 
promptness and decision, and with little bloodshed. The priests, 
with whom his liberal ideas made him no favourite, entered into 
a conspiracy against him, and a plot was laid to assassinate the 
monarch while he was attending some religious rite in one of 
the temples. This plot was discovered, and the priests were 
killed instead of the King. This monarch is said to have had 
a nice vein of pleasantry, and to have enjoyed a practical joke 
amazingly. One instance of this kind is recorded. A certain 
high religious functionary, presuming, as men of his class are 
never slow to do, on the privileges of his office, made some 
remarks to the King, one day, in a very insolent manner. His 
Majesty listened in silence, with right royal dignity ; and as 
soon as the conference was ended, he gave orders that a large 



EMBASSY FROM LOUIS XIV. 211 

baboon, an animal full of mischievous tricks, should be sent, as a 
present from the King, to this insolent church official, with a 
polite request that the priest should keep the creature, treat it 
well, and allow it perfect freedom of action. The poor priest had 
no alternative but to obey. The animal had not been many days 
in his house, when everything was thrown into ruin and con- 
fusion ; and the priest went to the King, imploring him to 
receive back the present. His Majesty very pleasantly said, he 
was surprised at the request, and thought the priest must have 
very little patience when he could not endure the bad conduct 
of a poor animal for a few days, while he, the King, had to 
endure the bad conduct and the insolent treatment of thousands 
of his subjects every day in his life. 

It was during the reign of this King that that most extra- 
ordinary attempt was made by Louis XIY., of France, to 
convert him to Christianity, as well as to conquer his country. 
The entire transaction, and the persons who appear in it, are 
tinged with so much romance, that, but for the undoubted 
authenticity of the story, it would be difficult to believe it. In 
the first place, we have Louis XIV., one of the greatest and at 
the same time most licentious monarchs of France, who, living 
in an atmosphere more redolent of scepticism and more opposed 
to Christianity than at that time surrounded any European 
court, was yet filled with the greatest desire to be the means of 
converting to Christianity the princes of the East. In the 
second place, we have that subtle, powerful, unconquerable body 
of daring priests, the Jesuits, then in the full ardour of their 
missionary schemes ; schemes ostensibly for the purpose of 
spreading the gospel, but virtually for bringing mankind under 
their absolute sway : a society with the most slender means 
doing the most daring and difficult deeds ; now sailing down 
some great unexplored river in America, and then teaching 
European arts to races of whose existence Europe had no know- 
ledge ; one year heard of as traversing the icy mountains and 
snowy plains of Siberia, and the next seen preaching the gospel 

p 2 



212 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

under a burning equatorial sun. Our earliest European 
accounts of many of the nations of both the Eastern and 
Western worlds are derived from their books ; and in few places 
where European civilisation has taken root, have traces of the 
Jesuits not been found, though in many cases they are remem- 
bered with other feelings than those of gratitude or good-will. 
In the third place, we have a Siamese monarch of consummate 
ability more European, perhaps, than Asiatic in his ideas 
willing to cultivate the friendship of civilised foreigners, and 
anxious to induce them to settle in his kingdom. Fourthly, and 
lastly, we find a Greek adventurer from Cephalonia acting as 
prime minister to this King, and conducting his affairs with an 
ability and a success that would be deserving of the highest 
admiration, if they did not often display an utter disregard of 
principle and of truth. The history of this man is worth 
knowing, both from its romantic character, and from the influ- 
ence that he exercised in Siam, and over the destinies of the 
Jesuit mission sent by Louis XIV. 

Constantino Phaulkon, for so was the Siamese premier named, 
was the son of respectable people in the island of Cephalonia, 
where he was born, in the year 1630. At an early age he gave 
indications of his taste for a roving, vagabondish sort of life, and, 
when twelve years old, he left " his father's halls," to make a 
voyage to England, in a merchant-vessel. His friends were 
doubtless sorry to part with the little boy, before whom such an 
uncertain future seemed to lie. Little did they dream that young 
Constantine would ultimately become prime minister to an 
Asiatic king of whom they had never heard, and director of the 
affairs of a kingdom whose geography was utterly unknown to 
the inhabitants of the Ionian Islands. Constantine arrived safe 
in England, and as he was a prompt, quick, intelligent lad, who 
walked about with his eyes always open and ever fixed on the 
main chance, he soon obtained some commercial employment. 
While in England he became a Protestant, whether from convic- 
tion or convenience does not appear, but most likely from the 



STORY OF CONSTANTINE PHAULKON. 213 

latter, as in after years he again became a Catholic. However, 
one thing led to another ; the young Greek prospered in the 
world, embarked in trade on his own account, and having made 
a little money, he bought a ship, freighted her with goods, and as 
was often the practice with owners in those days, he embarked 
on board his ship, and sailed to the East, on trading purposes 
bent. How he doubled the Cape, what ports he touched at, and 
what were his ultimate views, are events that have gone, like 
many others, without their record ; and the only clear fact that 
can be picked up about his voyage is, that his ship was wrecked 
at the mouth of the Menam, on the Siamese coast. The loss was 
great, but Constantine Phaulkon was saved. That was a great 
fact. He appears to have staid some time in the country, for the 
next time he is met with, he is able to speak the Siamese 
language, an accomplishment that in those days could only be 
acquired in Siam. We next find Constantine again wrecked, but 
this time on the coast of Malabar, in India. There, however, 
he found companions in misfortune, and among them was, strange 
to say, a Siamese official, who had been wrecked on the same 
coast on his return home from some embassy. What appeared 
a sad misfortune to Phaulkon, actually became to him the 
reverse. The Greek spoke Siamese well, and having saved 
a good deal from the wreck of his ship, he was able to carry 
the Siamese ambassador back to his own court. Phaulkon 
was received with great favour and honour, and was 
speedily elevated to the highest office in the state, next the 
King, an office which the French missionaries found him duly 
filling. 

In these circumstances, so unique and so favourable, the plans 
of the Jesuits, for the conversion to Christianity of all Eastern 
Asia, were first put in force. The country was divided at the 
Vatican, and bishops appointed with authority over the various 
districts. The natives of China, Cambogia, and Siam were 
profoundly ignorant of the good intentions of the Pope, nor 
would it have tended much to remove that ignorance, if they had 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

been told that Francis Pallu, M. de la Motte Lambert, and Ignatius. 
Cotolendy were coming to their respective territories, with the 
titles of Bishops of Heliopolis, Berytus, and Metellopolis. These 
three bishops were Frenchmen, as Louis XIV. wished that the 
honour and glory of the enterprise should be associated with 
France and his own name. In the year 1660 these priests arrived 
in Siam. They were exceedingly well received, and great favour 
was shown to them by the King, who gave them a piece of land 
on which to build a church. But all their efforts to convert the 
monarch failed. He listened patiently to all they had to say, did 
not dispute any points with them, but usually wound up the 
conference by the quiet remark that, " the Christian religion was 
good, but his religion was just as good." The Jesuits, however, 
soon mastered the language and opened schools, three of which 
they had in successful operation at one time. For about twenty 
years the Jesuits laboured hard in their vocation, and introduced 
many of the arts of Europe into the country. The King became 
so pleased with them, and the country from whence they had 
come, that he sent an embassy to the court of Louis XI V., who 
was highly nattered by such an attention, and immediately sent 
a return embassy with splendid presents. Two years afterwards 
he sent another, with more priests, and 500 soldiers, and this 
time there appears to have been some intention of conquering 
the country. 

The second embassy, sent by Louis XIV. to Siam, was headed 
by the Chevalier de Chaumont and Father Tachard, ^and 
embraced five vessels Le Gaillard, 52 guns ; L'Oiseau, 46 ; 
La Loire, 24 ; La Normandie and Le Dromadaire. It left the 
port of Brest on the 1st of March, 1687, at seven o'clock in 
the morning (the old Jesuit chronicler liked to be rather 
particular in some things), and the ships, after a tedious voyage 
round the Cape of Good Hope, cast anchor in the Menam on 
the 27th day of September, having thus occupied on the voyage 
above six months. The Siamese Ambassadors, who returned in 
these ships, as soon as the anchor was dropped demanded to be 



RECEPTION OF FEENCH EMBASSY. 215 

put on shore in order that they might, without the slightest 
delay, render their accounts to the King, as, according to Siamese 
etiquette, it was necessary that they should have an audience 
with the King before they were even permitted to enter their 
own houses. The first officer of their own country they met 
asked them of course about the objects they had seen, and they 
stated, with truly oriental exaggeration, that they had seen 
angels not men, and that France was not a kingdom, but a 
world. They described in the most pompous and poetical 
language the grandeur, the riches, the politeness of the French 
people, and tears flowed down their cheeks when they spoke of 
the manner in which they had been received, and of the civilities 
that had been profusely bestowed upon them by the great 
monarch who then ruled France. When they went to make 
their reports to the King, his Majesty, in the true Eastern style of 
taking matters, coolly and calmly, ordered the senior ambassador 
to attend him every day at a certain hour, and then deliver his 
report in the form of consecutive lectures. In this easy manner 
easy for the lecturer easy for the audience and ^uite in the 
fashion of "the thousand and one nights," did the King of Siam 
receive his Ambassador's reports respecting a great country and 
a mighty nation, that were at the time leading the civilisation of 
the world. 

When the ambassadors arrived, the King was engaged in 
hunting, but he left his sport specially for the purpose of 
receiving the Frenchmen. The game he was in pursuit of was 
the elephant, an amusement in which his successors do not 
appear to have extravagantly indulged. The woods that formed 
his hunting grounds contained elephants twelve and thirteen feet 
in height, few of them being under ten feet, and all, according to 
the Reverend Father Tachard, who describes them with uncommon 
piquancy, the most furious of beasts when enraged, and the most 
dangerous to hunt. Besides them, there were the rhinoceros, an 
animal said to be less dangerous than the elephant and the 
tiger, of enormous size, but more easily killed than either of the 



216 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

others. The first interview with the King was a mere formal 
business, attended with the usual ceremonies, and at which the 
chief feature was a grand, eloquent speech, made in French, and 
translated to the King. The Jesuits who accompanied the 
mission had shortly after an interview with the King, and their 
spokesman, this same Father Tachard, told his Majesty that 
they, the Jesuits, had suffered much pain, and endured much 
grief, in leaving the King of France, their friends, and their dear 
country; but that this pain and grief had been sweetened 
by the hope that in Siam they would find the great King of the 
East that they would find friends, and receive the royal protec- 
tion. The benefits which his Siamese Majesty had already 
conferred on them, day by day, since their arrival, had made 
them forget all the fatigues of their long and painful voyage, 
and that they now wished, as their dearest desire, to employ the 
rest of their lives in understanding the language of the country 
in communicating to the Siamese people a knowledge of the 
arts and sciences of Europe, and, above all, a knowledge of the 
true God. This speech was accompanied with presents of 
astronomical instruments, which were graciously received by 
the King, and the use of which he requested the Jesuits to 
explain. He said to them, however, very judiciously, that 
perhaps they would not find success in the principal object 
of their mission so easy as they hoped, but that patience always, 
in time, conquered even the greatest obstacles. This audience 
lasted two hours, and would have been still further prolonged 
had not the King been obliged to cut it short in consequence of 
his then suffering from an attack of rheumatism. 

Things went on for some time very pleasantly for the French. 
They were treated with great respect and distinction by the 
King, and were appointed to important offices under him. They, 
in general, seemed to like the new country, in which they had 
been so well received, but, after a time, they began to show 
symptoms of an insolent and a haughty spirit that ultimately 
led to their ruin. There was, however, one exception in the 



DIFFICULTIES OF THE FRENCH. 217 

person of the Count, de Forbin, a blunt, straightforward, honest 
sailor, who would not be hood-winked by the clever Phaulkon, 
and who saw clearly enough to what issue affairs were tending. 
He accepted, with great reluctance, the office of " Admiral and 
Generalissimo of the Forces of Siam ; " and, though the King 
showed great regard for him, the candid sailor could never dis- 
simulate his real feelings of melancholy and uneasiness. One 
day, the King happened to rally him on his conduct, and inquired 
the reason of his apparent unhappiness. The sailor answered, 
that " he esteemed himself very happy to be in the King's 
service ; " but he ground his teeth at the same time, clearly 
intimating that his reply was a mere piece of etiquette to which 
he was obliged to conform. This conduct gave, as might be 
supposed, great offence to the King, and, as a matter of course, 
to the King's courtiers. 

Meanwhile, the intriguing and wily Greek, Constantino 
Phaulkon, was making all parties instruments in carrying out 
his own deep designs. He kept the King diverted and in good 
humour with the displays which the savans, who accompanied 
the embassy, could so well make of European science and 
learning, and with hopeful visions of the greatness to which the 
empire would rise by the introduction of European arts. He 
fed the Jesuits by constant hopes of success in their great object 
of converting the King to Christianity ; and he satisfied the lay- 
men of the expedition by places and emoluments, and prospects 
of riches, from the great wealth, as he represented it, of the 
kingdom of Siam. 

But the aspect of affairs soon changed. Chaumont returned to 
France, where he arrived in 1688, just at the time of the English 
revolution of that year, and leaving behind him in Siam the 
elements of a revolution more sanguinary, and as important in 
its results to Siam as that of 1688 was to England. Phaulkon 
found the King determined not to embrace Christianity, and 
as he could no longer conceal this fact from the Jesuits, he 
was obliged to communicate it to them in a letter ostensibly 



SI 8 KESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

from the King, but evidently the composition of Phaulkon him- 
self. This letter was couched in such terms as to cause the con- 
fidence of the Jesuits in the prime minister to be greatly shaken. 
But a more serious cause of apprehension soon appeared in the 
growing enmity of the nobles and the people generally. The 
haughtiness and insolence of the French had gone on increasing 
until the nobles became alarmed for their own influence. They 
saw a body of strangers, superior to themselves in all kinds of 
knowledge, but more especially superior in the art of war, 
holding high offices in the State, and enjoying the confidence of 
the King. 'They felt not only that their own power was weakened, 
but that these strangers, in all probability, if allowed to go on 
unchecked, would ultimately become masters of the kingdom. 
But the time for open action had not arrived, and so they were 
content to " bide their time." 

The first open symptom of discontent came from Johore. 
Johore is the name of a small state at the extreme point of the 
Malay peninsula, and at this time its King was tributary to 
Siam. In all probability, the King neither knew nor cared any- 
thing about the French adventurers and their doings in Siam. 
His interest in the matter merely resolved itself into the problem 
of how he could escape paying his yearly tribute. But there 
were foreign influences at work on the King of Johore. The 
Dutch had, from the very first, watched with great jealousy the 
proceedings of the French ; and, having settlements near the 
Johore /territory, they persuaded the King to send envoys to 
the King of Siam, offering the services of his troops to extermi- 
nate the strangers from the land. But this offer was rejected 
with indignation ; and it was with great difficulty his Majesty 
of Siam could be prevented from causing the heads of the 
envoys to be cut off, contrary to all usage either in civilised or 
barbarous lands. 

Soon after this, an event, known in Siamese history as " the 
revolt of the Macassars," occurred, which hastened the 
revolution, of which the French had sown the seeds. The 



EEVOLT OF THE MACASSARS. 219 

story connected with this revolt gives us another curious, but 
unsatisfactory, glimpse into the otherwise dark history of many 
of these eastern lands. Celebes, a large island of a most curious, 
irregular shape, situated to the east of Borneo, contains a district 
known by the name of Macassar. The King of Macassar had 
been dethroned by the Dutch, for some reason which does not 
appear, but most probably because it happened at the time to 
suit their own purposes. The sons of the dethroned monarch 
sought and obtained a refuge in Siam, which, at the time, was 
quite an asylum for foreigners in distress, seeing that it likewise 
had welcomed three princes of Champa, a neighbouring state. 
These refugees brought with them many foreigners in their 
train ; and, instead of reciprocating the benefits that the King 
showered on them, they entered into a conspiracy to dethrone 
him ; to proclaim a younger brother, a mere boy, as his suc- 
cessor ; and, under his " phantom crown," to rule the kingdom 
of Siam. They also had religious objects in view, for they were 
led by a Mahometan priest, and intended, as soon as they were 
strong enough, to offer the inhabitants the usual alternative 
death or the Koran. But their conspiracy was fortunately 
discovered. The French were called in to put it down, and, 
after some severe fighting, (for the historians of the day say 
that the Macassars fought with ferocious bravery,) it was put 
down. 

The nobles, however, were soon in a position to unmask their 
designs ; and after a series of intrigues and skirmishes, they 
succeeded in driving the French from the country, the King was 
dethroned, and Constantine Phaulkon suffered a most ignomi- 
nious and cruel death. A new dynasty ascended the throne, 
and possessed it for about eighty years. During that time Siam 
appears to have had little intercourse of any kind with foreign 
nations. The country was, however, greatly torn by civil wars, 
which weakened it to such an extent that the Burmese, thinking 
it would fall an easy prey, invaded Siam, advanced as far as 
Yuthia, and would most probably have succeeded in subduing 



220 KESJDENCE IN SIAM. 

the whole country, had not their King, who was leading the army 
in person, died. 

In 1765, another Burmese invasion took place, which was 
successful. Yuthia was taken, the King killed, and the princes 
and princesses carried into captivity. The Siamese, however, 
rose as soon as the Burmese general left, and, headed by a chief 
of Chinese descent (who proclaimed himself King), again 
established the independence of their country. This King 
removed the capital to Bangkok ; but though the early years of 
his reign were marked by justice and wisdom, the latter were 
characterised by frightful acts of cruelty. A rebellion took 
place, led by one of the generals, in which the King was 
dethroned and killed, and the successful general reigned in his 
stead. Another Burmese invasion took place in 1786, but this 
time it was unsuccessful ; and since that time the Siamese have 
been engaged in no foreign war of any consequence. 




TOBACCO PLANT. 



KECENT EMBASSIES TO SIAM. 



EECENT EMBASSIES TO SIAM. 




HE Portuguese, it would ap- 
pear, were the first European 
people that had intercourse 
with the Siamese, An enter- 
prising nation, without many 
rivals, who had discovered the 
way to India by the Cape of 
Good Hope, was not likely to 
rest contented with one or two 
settlements on barren islands, 
when the whole wealth of the 
oldest part of the old world 
seemed opened up to them. Their settlements were admirably 
chosen, whether on the isle of Ormuz at the mouth of the Persian 
Gulf, or on Goa off the coast of Malabar. Their trade extended 
to all the islands in the Eastern seas, and their power and fame 
were undoubtedly very great among all the nations of the East ; 
for, as we saw in the previous chapter, their friendship and 
alliance were courted by the Siamese kings, and valuable trading 
privileges offered to them. The Dutch also had, from an early 
period, considerable intercourse with the Siamese ; but the pro- 
ceedings of the French appear to have, and very naturally, 
alarmed the Siamese, and given rise to that jealous feeling 
against, and dread of, Europeans, that form the greatest obstacles 
to commercial intercourse with them. In the early history of the 
European power in the East, the native inhabitants appear not 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

as hostile and jealous, but rather as friendly and unsuspecting ; 
anxious to give the strangers, in whom they acknowledged 
many points of superiority, a friendly welcome, and to turn 
those points to mutual advantage. But a closer acquaintance 
with the European character led to a change of this policy. 
The Asiatic soon saw in his pale-faced brother of Europe a 
soldier as well as a trader ; an ambitious diplomatist as well as 
a clever merchant. That power, derived from force of character 
and strength of mind, which the men of the East saw in the 
men of the "West, became a suspicious quality to be guarded 
against. The inferior race felt its inferiority, but its Asiatic 
pride ordered it not to succumb. Nor did the actions of the 
Europeans in any way tend to diminish this feeling. The usual 
acts of their power were three : first, they got a factory ; 
second, a fort ; and third, they became the ruling power. In 
India, and all along the eastern islands, this epitome of their 
history was illustrated by example crowding after example, 
which had a striking effect on those princes who were yet in a 
position to reject an alliance that seemed, through the influence 
of some infallible and irresistible fate, to lead to national degra- 
dation. In Siam, and the more eastern countries, this idea was 
fostered by the numbers of Chinese merchants who had found a 
home, and who were living handsomely on the fruits of that 
commerce which the Europeans desired to share, if not to mono- 
polise. But these Chinese emigrants were in a very different 
position from that which would be occupied by a body of 
emigrants from Europe. The laws of China prohibit emigration. 
When a Chinaman leaves his country, he ceases to have any 
claim on his government ; and when he settles in a foreign 
land, it is usually, not to get rich as fast as he can and then go 
home, but to live and die ; to marry a wife of his adopted 
nation ; and to become, to all intents and purposes, one of that 
nation himself. But with Europeans the case was' different. 
The emigrants never forgot their country, and their country 
never forgot them. The Chinese might be injured, robbed, and 



MR. CEAWFUED'S EMBASSY. 223 

murdered, and the Chinese Government would not interfere ; 
but injury to a European subject was welcomed by his country 
as an excuse for a demand for redress, if not a declaration 
of war. 

If, therefore, we find these eastern nations hard to deal with 
now; if we find them jealous, cunning, and deceitful, and dis- 
posed to look with suspicion on even our most sincere offers, let 
us always remember the lessons they have received, the exam- 
ples to which they can point, and the long bill of indictment 
they can run up against every nation of Europe that has 
attempted, by force, fraud, or fair dealing, to make settlements 
in the East. Even in our own day such examples have not 
altogether ceased ; and any acute Chinaman might overset the 
entire object of a mission to Siam by repeating and applying, 
'mutatis mutandis, the expression of a worthy member of the 
House of Commons, that " the English had been appointed by 
Divine Providence to be the rulers of India." Whether this 
right be claimed by the English people or the English Crown, 
the Chinaman would not have much difficulty in showing by 
examples that it was a " right divine to govern wrong." 

In 1821 a British embassy was sent to Siam under the care of 
John Crawfurd, Esq., by the Governor-General of India, then the 
Marquis of Hastings. The embassy was intended likewise for 
the King of Cochin-China, whose dominions border those of the 
King of Siam. The instructions given to Mr. Crawfurd were 
both judicious and minute, but it unfortunately happened that, 
in addition to the ordinary difficulties of dealing with a proud, 
jealous king, and cunning, deceitful courtiers and subordinates, 
his task was rendered doubly difficult and complex, by em- 
bracing subjects both of a commercial and political nature, the 
latter involving at the same time the authority of the King of 
Siam over a tributary subject, and the character of Britain for 
hospitality. 

This political question hampered and embarrassed the whole 
negotiation. It might be doubtful whether a favourable result 



224 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

would have been obtained had this question not existed, but 
most certainly, so long as this question remained unsettled, a 
successful result was not to be hoped for. The affair in itself 
was paltry enough. The Kings of Queda and Pera, two petty 
states in the peninsula of Malacca, that are little other than a 
narrow strip of sea coast, scarcely extending, when put together, 
through three degrees of latitude, had in some way or other 
embroiled themselves with the King of Siam, to whom they 
were tributary, and had sought the protection of the Governor of 
Prince of Wales' Island. The English Governor tried to mediate 
in the dispute, but the only conditions to which the Siamese 
King would listen were, that the two tributary monarchs should 
make their appearance at Bangkok, and be dealt with according 
to their offences. This was a course which these miserable 
creatures, with the title of king, had too great a regard for their 
own precious persons to pursue ; and, accordingly, the Siamese 
King was still more incensed. 

Mr. Crawfurd had repeated interviews, conducted with great 
regard to Siamese etiquette, before the real business of the 
embassy could be entered on. The first of these was with the 
Governor of Paknam, who invited the members of the embassy 
to an excellent repast. At this banquet, one person was present 
whose company had not been calculated on. About the period 
of Mr. Crawfurd's leaving Calcutta, or about five months before 
the day on which they were then dining, the Governor of Pak- 
nam, brother of their present host, had departed this life, and 
his body, " lying in a cofiin, covered with tinsel and white cloth, 
and a profusion of aromatics," was placed behind a curtain in 
this dining-room, waiting for such burial as it is customary for 
the Siamese to give their dead. The host did not, however, wish, 
like the ancient Egyptians, to point a moral and remind his 
guests that " they were dust, and unto dust they must return," 
but the body was there to fulfil a certain number of days of lying 
in state, and the Englishmen would have been ignorant of its 
presence, if they had not, like all other curious observers, wanted 



MR. CEAWFUED'S EMBASSY. 225 

to know what there was " behind the scenes." After this banquet 
was finished, a perfect battery of questions, many of them most 
impertinent, if not offensive, was opened on Mr. Crawfurd by 
the Governor, the aim being to ascertain the real object of the 
mission, and to get a knowledge of the presents that had been 
brought to the king from the Governor-General of India. About 
these presents, a most avaricious spirit was displayed ; a list of 
them was demanded, and this was compared with the presents 
sent on shore, and disputes constantly arose about alleged 
discrepancies between the list and the articles. 

The second interview was with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, 
whose questions were similar to those of the Governor of Paknam, 
but less rude and impertinent. Then followed an interview with 
the Crown Prince, in which a whole host of questions were put 
and answered. The fourth interview was to be with the king 
himself, and the 8th of April, 1 822, was fixed as the eventful 
day. Mr. Crawfurd had thus been fifteen days in the country 
before he was permitted to see the king. The interview was 
attended with ceremonies similar to those described in the 
preceding pages : questions were put and answers given, and 
it ended in the abrupt manner usual with Siamese kings. 

It was eight days after this interview with the king, ere any 
attempt was made on the part of the Siamese to give Mr. 
Crawfurd an opportunity of entering on the real business of the 
mission. The first interview resulted in nothing. The Siamese 
Minister was told that the English " wished the imposts upon 
European commerce at Siam lightened,, and the intercourse 
rendered in all respects so free and fair as to make it agreeable 
to both parties." This was immediately met by the demand 
that not less than four ships should come yearly to Siam ; the 
reason assigned for this being that two years previously a com- 
mercial treaty had been made with the Portuguese, in which the 
import duties were reduced from eight to six per cent. ; but no- 
Portuguese ships had since that time come to Siam. Six days, 
afterwards, a second interview took place, which lasted from 

Q 



KESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

nine to twelve o'clock at night, and which turned chiefly on the 
security for the persons and properties of British subjects 
resorting to Siam, a security which the Siamese were unwilling 
to guarantee, saying, very truly, that British subjects in Siam 
must submit to the laws of the country. Twelve days after this 
intimation came that the negotiation must be further postponed 
in consequence of all the great officers of state being engaged in 
arrangements for removing the king's residence from one part 
of the palace to another! His Majesty having been safely 
removed, a third interview was held with his chief minister. 
The chief point insisted on by the Minister at this interview 
was the king's right, through his agents, to select such goods from 
trading vessels as he thought proper, and offering for them his own 
prices. Should the captain refuse to sell at those prices, none of 
the king's subjects dare buy at higher rates, and the alternative 
usually was, either to accept the king's prices or to depart 
without effecting a sale. In either case the voyage would be 
attended with a decided loss. This, of course, Mr. Crawfurd 
strongly objected to, as it must evidently check commercial 
enterprise, to say nothing of its obvious unfairness. But free- 
trade is unknown at Siam, and the king, through his minister, 
naturally refused the slightest concession on this point. Here 
the mission may be said to have terminated. While such a 
privilege remains, and is asserted, no foreign nation can have 
any encouragement to trade with the Siamese. A visitation of 
the cholera and the arrival of an embassy from Cochin-China, 
again interrupted the negotiation ; but it might have ended 
here. At the next interview the political question was discussed ; 
and at the next after that ; the feeling displayed on the subject 
by the Siamese being so strong as to compel Mr. Crawfurd to 
use language " such as a Siamese minister could not have been 
much accustomed to." The negotiation dragged its slow length 
along for a few more days, and only resulted in a vague promise 
on the part of the king to give English trading ships all the 
encouragement in his power. 



AMERICAN EMBASSY. 227 

The last embassy to Siam of any note or importance was that 
from the United States of America, under the charge of 
Mr. Eliot, the Envoy. The " Peacock," American sloop of war, 
which had then been for several years cruising on a scientific 
and exploring expedition in the Eastern Seas, was, one fine 
morning, quite unexpectedly, reported to have anchored off the 
Bar of Siam, much to the delight of the Europeans resident at 
Bangkok, especially the American missionaries, and not a little 
to the discomfort of the Siamese, who looked upon these visita- 
tions from men-of-war as neither more nor less than the precursor 
to a general invasion of their country, and considered the officers 
and men of the expedition as so many spies, who, under the plea 
of scientific acquirements, were laying plans and devising schemes 
for the easiest and most effectual method of subduing the empire. 
Not a leaf was plucked or a stone picked up by the curious and 
learned that accompanied the expedition to add to their stock of 
mineralogical and botanical curiosities, but the act was attri- 
buted to some sinister purposes. Kegularly paid and enlisted 
spies dodged their every movement, and reported proceedings 
regularly at head quarters. The reception of the mission was 
barely civil, and exacted only so much respect as was inculcated 
by a wholesome dread of consequences, and the fact of a vessel 
of war, well armed and equipped, being actually on the spot, 
ready at a moment's warning to vindicate the honour of the 
American flag. Many tempting propositions were made by the 
Envoy in his endeavours to persuade the Siamese Government to 
swerve a little from the cold and rigid formalities attendant on 
the then existing treaties between Siam and other European 
Powers, and Brother Jonathan strove mightily and warily to 
ingratiate the officers of state, so that their influence might tend 
to facilitate pending negotiations ; but all was in vain. Gifts 
and civilities were received and returned assurances given 
and faith pledged that the amelioration of the interests of both 
parties should be always a weighty consideration ; but further 
than this, nothing could be effected. No ratified treaty or 

Q 2 



228 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

written document could be obtained ; and the " Peacock " sailed 
again, taking with her the Envoy and his party ; the officers 
highly delighted with the many pleasant hours they had passed 
in the society of European friends, both in following up the wild 
sports of the East and in the more social enjoyment of dinner 
parties and picnics ; but the diplomatic portion of the expedi- 
tion sadly chagrined to think that all their efforts for the 
bettering of American traffic had been as futile and void of 
success as all the like embassies had heretofore proved. 
Oysterlike, the Siamese King vastly preferred being entirely 
dependent for all the comforts and luxuries of this life upon the 
resources that were enclosed within that shell his own kingdom. 
It remains for England the most enterprising country in the 
world to penetrate into the heart of an unknown country 
abounding with unheard-of resources, and rich beyond compu- 
tation, and there to establish a firm footing for trade, and one 
which will open to the ports of Great Britain and of our vast 
Indian Empire additional markets for our manufactures, and 
new and rich fields for our trade. 



SIAMESE SONGS. 



229 



SIAMESE SONGS. 



^^^^^-^ -== _ HEN Loubere visited Siam in 

1687, lie reported" I could not 
* \ get a Siamese song well trans- 
s lated, so different is their way 
of thinking from ours ; yet I 
have seen some pictures, as, for 
example, of a pleasant garden, 
where a lover invites his mis- 
tress to come. I have also seen 
some expressions which, to me, 
appeared full of gross immo- 
rality, although this had not the 
same effect in their language. 
But besides love-songs, they have, likewise, some historical and 
moral songs : I have heard the Pagayeurs sing some, of which 
they made me to understand the sense. Some have told me 
that one of the brothers to the King of Siam composed some 
moral poems, very highly esteemed, to which he himself set the 
tune." 

I am able, however, to give translations of two songs, which 
will give some idea of what these productions are among the 
Siamese. 




230 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



THE BOATMAN'S SONG. 

AN amorous Siamese swain, stricken with, the charms of 
some black-toothed damsel, has composed a song which is 
much in vogue amongst the boatmen class, and which being 
translated is, to a foreigner's ears, almost as charming as the 
Nigger Song of " de Boatmen Dance" and infinitely less melo- 
dious. The maiden's name is Chin, one very common amongst 
Siamese and Burmese. 

A happy and reckless youth I am, 

As I ply my boat on the deep Menam ; 

My song shall end, and my song begin, * 

In praise of thee, my darling Chin. 

Chorus. 

Begin with the head, and end with the toes : 
My praise shall be strong as the tide that flows. 

Who that has seen has e'er forgot 
Thy pretty hair tied in a sweet knot ; 
And prettier still than the tuft of hair 
Thy brow, unwrinkled by grief or care. 

Cho. Begin with the head, &c. 

The eyebrows black, I'm sure that each 
Is as shiny as any fine healthy leech : 
No elephant, white, black, short, or tall, 
Can boast of such eyes, so loving and small. 
Cho. Begin with the head, &c. 

As for thy nose, I'm certain that 
None other has one so wide and flat : 
And the ebony's bark, in its core beneath, 
Was never so black as thy shiny teeth. 

Cho. Begin with the head, &c. 



THE CULPEIT PRIEST'S LAMENT. 231 

Complexion of gold, and a high cheekbone, 
Such treasures with pride would a princess own. 
Right proud am I to woo and win 
Such a lovely bride as my darling Chin. 

Cho. Begin with the head, &c. 

Thy frame is as light as the forest stag, 
And as strong and firm as a rocky crag : 
Thy feet and toes (the more good luck) 
As pretty and broad as the web-footed duck. 
7 Cho. Begin with the head, &c. 

My life I'd give a prize to him 
Who produces a wife like thee can swim ; 
Or paddle with skill a heavy canoe, 
'Gainst the mightiest wind that ever blew. 
Cho. Begin with the head, &c. 

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. This translation may give some 
faint idea of the general elegance of Siamese verse, and the sing- 
song, droning nature of the music, but too fitly adapted to the 
poetry. 



THE CULPRIT PRIEST'S LAMENT. 

IN a preceding chapter I have alluded to the celibacy of the 
priests of Siam. Any departure from this is severely punished, 
and the following is a translation of a lament supposed to be 
uttered by a guilty priest, previous to his suffering along with 
his partner in guilt the dreadful punishment attached to their 
transgression. 

I was as a bird on the banian tree, 

In the heat of the sultry day, 
That vainly sought from the hawk to flee, 

As its shadow pass'd o'er that way ; 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

As the bird's heart flutters beneath the gaze 

Of the falcon's deadly eye : 
So fluttered mine, when in sore amaze, 

I saw thy form draw nigh ; 

For never on earth or on sea before, 

Had I seen a thing so bright ; 
Thy face was love, and thy smile was more 

Eesplendent than the light : 
And thy tread was as soft as the timid doe, 

When it noiselessly seeks the brook ; 
And the terror that fill'd me, who can know 

When entranced by thy first look ? 

I trembling imagined in thee I saw 

A spirit from realms above, 
And my aching heart grew sad and sore, 

With hopeless madd'ning love. 
In fascination's powerful spell 

I was bound as the bird is bound, 
Which, ere to the serpent's jaw it fell, 

Flew circling round and round ; 

For I hover'd by day around the spot, 

Where I knew that danger dwelt ; 
And the cares and sorrows of life forgot, 

In the rapturous bliss I felt. 
When a smile or a glance like a cheering ray 

Of sunlight pierced my breast, 
And vainly I sought to hie me away 

From thy charms and be at rest. 

And cursed be the day and the fatal hour 

I learned to love thee well ; 
For a hidden sting lurk'd beneath the flower, 

And loving, I sinn'd, and fell 



THE CULPEIT PRIESTS LAMENT. 

And a fearful doom waits thee and me, 

A fearful doom indeed ; 
'Twere better to drown 'neath the fathomless sea, 

Or on battle-field to bleed. 

Behold the faggots blaze up high, 

The smoke is black and dense ; 
The sinews burst, and crack, and fly : 

Oh suffering intense ! 
The roar of fire and shriek of pain, 

And the blood that boils and splashes ; 
These all consume the search were vain 

For the lovers' mingled ashes. 



Q33 




SIAMESE PUNISUilEKT. 



234 



EES1DENCE IN SIAM. 




SIAMESE MUSIC. 



THE accompanying cut gives a just and striking picture of a 
Siamese band of musicians. Their instruments are extremely 
primitive, such as one might imagine were in vogue in the days 
of the psalmist David. The hautboy player is seldom, like the 
rest of his brother musicians, seated on the floor. This import- 
ant individual, who is usually the leader of the band, chooses a 
kneeling posture, as the one not only best suited to his dignity, 
but as affording him more freedom of action ; and he might as 
soon be expected to jump over the moon, as to play an air, 
however doleful and dolorous, without swaying his body to and 



SIAMESE MUSICIANS. 235 

fro to keep time with the movements of the melody. The band- 
master is usually professionally a snake-charmer, and his 
long practice in that rather unenviable calling, has forced on 
him the habit of rocking his body to and fro with greater or 
less energy, as the time and cadence of the music may require. 
Without this, he could never fascinate the cobra, who with head 
erect, and venomed tongue stuck out in the air, is compelled, 
whilst under the deep spell of music, to follow every motion of 
the charmer, longing, yet totally unable either to stir from 
the spot, or to dart its envenomed fangs into the heart's blood of 
him it would fain destroy, and yet cannot resist implicitly 
obeying. The Siamese band-master and snake-charmer prefers 
this position, because it gives his arms full swing, and whilst 
playing on with one hand, and keeping the cobra's head and 
neck in perpetual motion, he cautiously withdraws the other 
hand, and watching for a favourable moment, darts at the 
serpent's neck, and firmly holding on till the whole body of the 
creature has been wove round his arm, coolly proceeds by the 
aid of a small pair of pincers to extract the snake's teeth and 
venom bag : and then the cobra has become a harmless play- 
thing. So, in his double profession of musician and snake- 
charmer, this individual demands no small degree of respect 
from his brethren. His instrument has six holes for notes, is 
roughly and carelessly shaped, has no keys, and has only 
acquired a high polish from the fact of its having been con- 
tinually handled about and played upon during the last ten or 
fifteen years. The wood of which it is made is commonly from 
the jack-fruit tree, a wood capable of receiving a high polish, and 
in my opinion admirably adapted for guitars. The tones pro- 
duced by this Siamese hautboy, even at the best of time, and 
whilst executing the liveliest airs, are heart-rendingly dolorous 
and out of tune ; nothing will bear comparison with it, with the 
exception, perhaps, of old and cracked bagpipes, such as the 
Frenchmen supposed had occasioned the death of all the 
nightingales in Scotland, Next to the band-master comes the 



236 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

performer on the Siamese pianoforte. 'This, however, is in 
reality strictly a Burmese instrument of Burmese invention, 
and on which the Burmese far excel their fiat-nosed neighbours. 
The notes consist of oblong pieces of wood, hewn and shaped 
from the cashoo-nut tree, and varying in size from six inches by 
one broad, to fourteen inches by two; these are strung upon 
pieces of twine, a knot intervening between each note to prevent 
jarring and confusion. These are fastened on a mahogany stand 
of about three feet in length and a foot high ; and the method 
of performing upon this instrument is by striking them with two 
knob-ended batons, one of which the player holds in either 
hand. The effect is harmonious. The notes are regular, and 
admit of a vast scope for cadence and harmony of touch, and 
there are some of the Burmese who fly over the notes with 
amazing rapidity and precision. 

After the piano-forte player comes the performer on the 
luptuma, an instrument purely of Siamese invention, and which 
consists of from ten to a dozen long perforated reeds, or young 
bamboos, in a double range confined together by means of a 
hollow, wooden band, and closely cemented with wax, so as to 
prevent the escape of air or sound. The orifice at one end is 
applied to the mouth, and no skill is required in producing the 
most melodious sounds sometimes loud and sweet enough to 
resemble the peal from a church organ. The man has merely to 
blow into this orifice, and, with his fingers, cover or open the 
little holes that are perforated into the eanes on either row just 
above the tube that is applied to the mouth. The tabour player 
comes next: his is an instrument common to all eastern 
nations ; it consists of a baked earthen vessel, with very much 
the shape of an hour glass, open at both ends to one of which a 
piece of sheep's skin or parchment is firmly attached. Striking 
on this, he keeps time with the rest of the musicians ; and it 
answers very much the same purposes as a kettle-drum. Lastly 
in the circle of performers, we come to the veritable banjo with 
this difference in its construction, that it is manufactured 



SIAMESE MUSIC. 



237 



entirely out of a large long-necked gourd, which, when green, 
is sliced in halves longways, cleared of pulp and seed, and so left 
to dry in the sun. When dry, the aperture is covered with 
parchment, and from four to six strings strung after the fashion 
of a guitar. Its notes are melodious enough when well touched, 
and it is capable of forming an excellent accompaniment to the 
voice. These constitute a Siamese band, with the addition only, 
on large processions and festive occasions, of a big drum and a 
set of triangles. I consider the Siamese music execrable ; nor, 
indeed, is there any nation in the East that can be said to possess 
even the first rudiments of music, save and except the Malays 
inhabiting the straits, of Malacca* 



238 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



SIAMESE LANGUAGE. 

THE subject of the Siamese language is much too extensive 
to be treated of in a work like this, that does not aspire higher 
than to be a personal narrative. Still a few specimens may be 
given of the words in most common use, denoting the most 
familiar articles : 

Pra a great cleaver, used as a hatchet. 

Ciou a joiner's chisel. 

Lendi a saw. 

Kob a joiner's plane. 

Quiob a spade. 

Reuang a house. 

Savu the bamboo pillars which bear the house. 

Root the two transverses or bamboos laid across, along the 
front and along the back part of a house. 

Preuang hurdles serving to plank the lower or first floor. 

Fak sticks flattened and joined together at equal distances, 
to lay over the floor instead of a carpet. 

Mesa the mother wall ; it consists of the hurdles or wainscot- 
ing which serves as the outward wall. 

Fa the hurdles which make the principal enclosures. 

Lank fa the son of the enclosure, that is to say the lesser 
enclosures. 

Krdbouang the tiles. 

Pe the roof. 

Hong a chamber. 

Gadai the ladder of the house. 



SIAMESE LANGUAGE. 239 

Te-non the place where the bed is to lie on when they have no 

bedstead. Non signifies to sleep ; te signifies a place. 
Mon a pillow. 
Fouk-song-non the mattress : song signifies under, and non 

to sleep. 

Prom a, carpet for the feet. 
Hip a chest. 

Hip-lin a chest with drawers. 
He-can a pot to put water in ; can signifies a pot ; me means 

mother. 

Touas a porcelain plate or dish. 
Quion a spoon. 
Mid a knife. 
Mid-caune a razor ; caune signifies to shave, so that the word 

literally means a knife to shave, or a shaving-knife. 
Tim-quian a candlestick ; quian is a candle of yellow wax. 
Lom-pok a bonnet of ceremony; lorn signifying bonnet, and 

pok high. 

Pa-naung a linen sash, worn round the lower part of the body. 
Lena-kao the muslin shirt. 
Nook a hat. 
Penn-nok-sap a musket. 
Peun a cannon ; with the addition of yai, it means a great 

cannon. 

Touan a lance. 
Dab a sabre. 
Kantar a bow. 
TJiam hai san to shorten. 
TJiam o mong to mine. 
Rang hai to weep. 
Kep wai to retain. 
Chak k, hrai to wish. 
Tang prass to incur a fine. 
Chai an of a tender disposition. 
Chai reo of a quick apprehension. 



240 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

Mee-ndm chai discreet, polite. 

Tang Jean necessary. 

Tak chai nuk naa greatly alarmed. 

Satrookun inimical. 

Me tern paee plentiful. 

Tern su nook delightful. 

Tern chang spiteful. 

Mee pan ya wise. 

K, ho hokMse. 

Deug deug reddish. 

Dam dam blackish. 

Mai so dee tolerably well. 

Mai k, lod fearless. 

T, hee dak mdi a flower pot. 

Tj hee fang p, liee a place of burial. 

Nok yoong a peacock ; literally, a bird. 

Chess sick. 

K) hwam chess sickness. 

Kwam eudoo kindness. 

T, han how. 

Khee how many. 

Khrai who. 

Dai what. 

Rai what ? 

Mak many. 

Ndee ^few. 

Tai great. 

Lek little. 

Taau long. 

San short. 

Nd t, hee nee come here. 

Aneetcha sister. *" 

Pau (ke) tre sound the trumpet. 

Me-hek ^loadstone, or mother of iron. 

K, hongk, ha ^water ; literally, the Goddess Gunga. 



SIAMESE LANGUAGE. 



241 



Lau chaee grandson. 

Lau yeeng granddaughter. 

Po grandfather. 

Yd& grandmother. 

Achaee uncle. 

Taphaee aunt. 

Phee eldest brother or sister. 

Pang youngest brother or sister. 

Samee D p hoa husband. 

Me-a wife. 

Maiesse que en. 

Akk-Jia mahesse princess. 

Pum a potato. 

Bootchee son. 

Bootyeug daughter. 

1 Nung. 
2 Sang. 
3 Sam. 
4 See. 
5 Ha. 
QHok. 
1Chet. 
8 P&. 
9Kau. 



10 Seep. 
II Seep bet. 
12 Seep sang. 
13 Seep sdm. 
14 Tee seep. 
100 Rae mung. 
1000 P,hau nung. 
10,000 Nun nung. 
100,000 Seu nung. 



o 



RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



LOUBEIBE'S ACCOUNT OF THE SIAMESE. 

IT has often been remarked of the natives of the East that 
they are almost unchangeable in their modes of government, 
habits of life, and ways of thinking. Century after century 
passes away unmarked by progress and undistinguished by 
change. Traveller succeeds traveller at long intervals of time 
and each repeats unconsciously the observations and diffuses the 
information of the other. 

The Siamese certainly form no exception to this remark. 
Such as they were in the days of the early Jesuit missionaries- 
such are they found now. La Loubdrt visited them in 1687, and 
published a book descriptive of the country and its inhabitants* 
which, with little change, would apply equally well to Siam 
and the Siamese of the present day. Where is the nation of 
Europe of which the same could be said 1 The England of 1688 
was very different from the England of 1852. The activity, the 
restlessness, and the change of any year between these two dates 
would almost crowd a century of the history of such countries 
as Siam. 

In illustration of this, the following translations from Loubere's 
interesting, and now rare work, will, it is hoped, prove 
of value : 

"DRESS or THE SIAMESE. 

"The Siamese hardly clothe themselves. Tacitus reports 
concerning the German infantry, in his time, that it was either 
all naked or covered with light coats, and even at this present 
time (1688) there are some savages in North America who go 
almost naked, which proves, in my opinion, that the simplicity 



LOUBEKE'S DESCEIPTION OF THE SIAMESE DBESS. 243 

of manners, as well as the heat, is the cause of the nakedness of 
the Siamese as it is of the nudity of these savages. It is not that 
clothes are insupportable to the French who visit Siam, but it is 
not healthy for them to unclothe themselves, because the injuries 
of excessively hot air are not less serious than those of extremely 
cold air ; yet with this difference, that in very hot climates it is 
sufficient for health to cover the stomach. The Spaniards do for 
this reason cover it with a buffalo's skin ; but the Siamese, 
whose manners are plain in everything, have chosen to habituate 
themselves from their infancy to an almost entire nudity. 

" They go with their feet naked and their head bare, and for 
decency only they gird their reins and thighs, down to the knees, 
with a piece of painted cloth, about two yards and a half long, 
which the Portuguese call pagne. Sometimes, instead of a painted 
cloth, the pagne is a silken stuff, either plain or embroidered with 
gold and silver. 

" The mandarins or officers wear, besides the pagne, a muslin 
shirt, which serves as a kind of vest. They pluck it off and wrap 
it about their middle when they approach a mandarin much 
higher in dignity, to express to him their readiness to go where 
he may please to send them. These shirts have no neck-band, 
and are open before. The sleeves hang down almost to their 
wrists, being about two feet wide, but without being plaited 
above or below. 

" In winter they sometimes put over their shoulders a breadth 
of stuff or painted linen, either like a mantle or a scarf, the ends 
of which they wind very neatly about their arms. 

" B But the King of Siam wears a vest of some excellent satin, 
brocaded, the sleeves of which are very straight, and reach 
down to the wrist, and as we apparel ourselves against the 
cold under our waistcoats, he puts this next under the shirt 
which I have described, and which he adorns with lace or 
European paint. It is not lawful for any Siamese to wear this 
sort of vest, unless the King gives it to him, and he makes this 
present only to the most considerable of his officers. 

R 2 



244 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

" He sometimes also gives them another vest or garment of 
scarlet, which is to be worn only in war or at hunting. This 
garment reaches to the knees, and has eight or ten buttons 
in front. The sleeves are wide, but without ornament, and so 
short that they do not reach the elbows. 

" The difference between the dress of the women and that of 
the men is, that the women fastening their pagne lengthwise 
round their bodies, in the same way as the men do, let it fall 
down broadways, somewhat like a close coat, so as to reach 
half way down the leg ; whereas the men tie the two ends of the 
pagne tightly around their loins. The women have no covering 
but the pagne, but among the rich it is not unusual to wear a 
scarf. They sometimes wrap the ends of the scarf about their 
arms, but the most fashionable way, and that which is considered 
as the best to set off their beauty, is to put it singly over their 
bosoms at the middle, smooth the wrinkles, and let the two 
ends hang down behind over their shoulders. 

" They wear rings on the three last fingers of each hand, and 
the fashion permits them to put on as many as can possibly be 
kept on. They wear no necklaces, but the women and children 
wear ear-rings, generally of gold, silver, or vermilion gilt, and 
in the shape of a pear. The boys and girls of a good family 
have bracelets, but only to six or seven years of age, and they 
equally wear them on their arms or legs. They are of the same 
material as the ear-rings." 

" PERSONAL APPEARANCE OF THE SIAMESE. 

" The Siamese are rather small in stature, but their bodies are 
well proportioned, which I principally attribute to their not swad- 
dling in their infancy. The care that we take to form the shape 
of our children is not always so successful as the liberty which 
they leave to nature to proceed in forming theirs. The shape of 
the face in both men and women is more of an oval than a 
lozenge ; it is broad and high at the cheek-bones, but the fore- 



LOVE OF GAMBLING. JU5 

head suddenly contracts and terminates almost as much in a 
point as the chin. Their eyes are small and not over brisk, and 
the white thereof is generally yellowish. Their jaws are hollow 
by reason they are too high above, their mouths are large, their 
lips thick and pale, and their teeth blackened. Their complexion 
is coarse and of a brown mixed with red, to which the continual 
sun-burning very much contributes. 

" The hair is black, thick, and lank, and both sexes wear it so 
short that all round the head it reaches only to the tip of the 
ears. Underneath this they are very closely shaved, and this 
fashion greatly pleases them. The women raise the hair on 
their forehead, but without fastening it again, and some let it 
grow behind to wreathe it. The young unmarried wear it after 
a particular manner. They cut with scissors very close the 
crown of the head, and then all round they pull off a small 
circle of hair about the thickness of two crown-pieces, and under- 
neath they let the rest of their hair grow down almost to the 
shoulders. The Spaniards, by reason of the heat, frequently 
shave the crown of the head in this manner, but they pluck off 
nothing. 

" They take care of their teeth, although they black them ; 
they wash their hair with water and sweet oils as the Spaniards 
do. They use combs brought from China, which, instead of 
being all of a piece, like ours, are only a great many points or 
teeth tied close together with wires. They pluck the beard, of 
which they naturally have little, but they do not cut their nails, 
being satisfied with keeping them neat." 

"SIAMESE LOVE OF GAMBLING. 

" The Siamese love gaming to such an excess as to ruin them- 
selves and lose their liberty, or that of their children ; for, in this 
country, whoever has not wherewith to satisfy his creditor, sells 
his children to discharge his debt ; and if this is insufficient, he 
himself becomes a slave." 



246 BESIDENCE IN SIAM. 



MINES OF SIAM. 

THE following account, given by Loubejre, of the mines of Siam, 
fully bears out the statements in the preceding pages regarding 
the probable existence of great metallic wealth in the country : 

" No country has a greater reputation for being rich in mines 
than Siam; and the great number of idols and other works of art 
cast in metal shows that these mines have been better cultivated 
in former times than now. It is believed, likewise, that they 
thence extracted that great quantity of gold with which they 
have adorned not only their innumerable idols but the wainscot 
and roofs of their temples. They have likewise found many pits 
bearing marks of antiquity, and the remains of a great many 
furnaces, which are thought to have been abandoned during the 
wars with Pegu. 

" The king who now reigns has not been able to find any vein 
of gold or silver that would repay the expense of working, 
although he has employed in this work some Europeans, and 
among the rest a Spaniard who had been in Mexico, and who 
found, if not a great fortune, at least his subsistence during 
twenty years, even up to the period of his death, by flattering 
the avarice of this prince with the imaginary promises of infinite 
treasure. After having dug and mined in several places they 
found only some very mean copper mines, though intermixed 
with a little gold and silver. Five hundred-weight of ore 
scarcely yielded an ounce of metal. 

" From Siam we brought back Mr. Vincent, the physician. 
He understood mathematics and chemistry, and the King of 
Siam retained him some time at the work in his mines. He 
rectified the labours of the Siamese in some things, so that they 
could obtain a little more profit than formerly. He showed 
them a mine of very good steel (iron ?) at the top of a mountain, 
which had already been worked, but which they had not 



PREPARING TEA. 247 

perceived. He discovered also one of antimony and several 
others, as well as a quarry of white marble. Besides this, he 
found out a gold-mine, which to him appeared very rich, as far 
as he was able to judge without trying it ; but he did not show 
it to the natives. Several Siamese, mostly Talapoins or Priests, 
came secretly to consult him about the art ,of purifying and 
separating metals, and brought him various specimens of very 
rich ore. From some he extracted a very good quantity of fine 
silver, and from others a variety of metals. 

" The Siamese have iron mines, but they are not very pro- 
ductive, and besides, the natives are bad forgemen. They obtain 
padlocks from Japan, some of which are of iron, and are very 
good ; others are of copper, and are very bad." 

The King of Siam, who reigned when Loubere was there, had, 
among other reasons for supposing that his country abounded in 
mines of gold and silver, the following, which is worth noticing, 
on account of its originality : Extensive mines of gold and silver 
exist in Mexico and Peru ; as Siam is nearly the antipodes to 
those countries, and as the king supposed the metallic veins 
must pass right through the earth, it naturally followed that the 
gold and silver of Mexico and Peru must reappear on the other 
side of the world in Siam ! 



"MODE OF PREPARING TEA. 

" The Siamese prepare their tea in this manner. They have 
copper pots tinned on the inside wherein the water is boiled. 
It is boiled very quickly, because the copper is very thin. This 
copper comes from Japan, if my memory fails me not, and. it is 
so easy to work that I question whether we have any so pliant 
in Europe. These pots are called boulis, and on the other hand 
they have boulis of red earth, which is without taste, though 
without varnish. They first rinse the earthen pot with boiling 
water to heat it ; then they put in as much tea as one can take 
up with the finger and thumb, and afterwards fill it with boiling 



248 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

water, and after having covered it they still pour boiling water 
on the outside : they do not stop the spout as we do. When the 
tea is sufficiently infused, that is to say, when the leaves are 
precipitated, they pour the liquor into china dishes, which, at 
first, they fill only half, to the end that if it appear too strong 
they may temper it by pouring in water, which they still keep 
boiling in the copper pot. They continue adding boiling water 
to the earthen pot until they find that the strength of the tea is 
gone. They put no sugar into the dishes, because they have 
none refined which is not candy, and it melts too slowly. They, 
therefore, take a little in the mouth and champ it as they drink 
the tea. When they would have no more tea they turn the cup 
down on the saucer, because it is the greatest incivility in them 
to refuse anything, and if they left the cup standing they would 
be served with more tea, which they are obliged to receive. But 
they forbear to fill the dish unless they wish to testify to the 
guest that he is not expected to come back to the house, in 
which case the dish is re-filled, even though the cup be turned 
down." 

" SIAMESE HOUSES. 

" The houses of the Siamese are small, but surrounded with 
pretty large grounds. Hurdles of cleft bamboo, often not closely 
compacted, make the floors, walls, and roof. The piles on which 
they are erected to avoid the inundations are bamboos as thick 
as a man's leg, and about thirteen feet above the ground, by 
reason that the waters sometimes rise to that height : there are 
never more than four or six, on which other bamboos are laid 
across instead of beams. The stairs are a ladder of bamboo, 
which hangs on the outside like the ladder of a windmill. And, 
as their stables also are in the air, they have climbers made of 
hurdles by which the cattle enter. 

" If every house stands single, it is rather for the privacy of 
the family, which would be discovered through such thin walls, 
than for fear of fire. They make their little fire in the courts and 



COMMERCIAL RESTRICTIONS. 249 

none in the houses ; and in any case it is impossible for a fire to 
do any great damage. Three hundred houses, which were 
burned at Siam in our time, were rebuilt in two days. On a 
time when a bomb was shot to please the King of Siam, who 
beheld it at a distance, from one of the windows of his palace, it 
was necessary, for this purpose, to remove three houses, and the 
proprietors had them carried away, with their furniture, in less 
than an hour. Their hearth or chimney is a basket-full of earth, 
supported by three sticks, like a tripod. In the same manner, 
they place the fires in the forests when hunting the elephants." 

"RESTRICTIONS ON COMMERCE. 

" Commerce requires a certain liberty. No person can resolve 
to go to Siam, necessarily to sell unto the king what is carried 
thither, and to buy of him alone what we would carry thence, 
when this was not the product of the kingdom. For though there 
were several foreign ships together at Siam, the trade was not 
permitted from one ship to the other, nor with the inhabitants 
of the country, natives or foreigners, till that the king, under 
pretence of a preference due to his royal dignity, had purchased 
what was best in the ships, and at his own rate to sell it after- 
wards as he pleased : because that, when the season for the de- 
parture of the ships presses on, the merchants choose rather to 
sell to great loss and dearly to buy a new cargo, than to wait at 
Siam a new season to depart without hopes of making a better 
trade." [In illustration of this extract, see the account of Mr. 
Crawfurd's embassy.] 

" GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE SIAMESE. 

" In general the Siamese have more moderation than we have. 
Their humours are as calm as their heaven, which changes only 
twice a year, and insensibly, when it turns by little and little 
from rain to fair weather, and from fair weather to rain. They 
act only by necessity, and do not, like us, place merit in action. 



250 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

It seems not rational to them that labour and pains should be 
the fruit and reward of virtue. They have the good fortune to 
be born philosophers, and it may be that if they were not born 
such, they would not become so more than we. I therefore 
willingly believe what the ancients have reported, that philo- 
sophy came from the Indies into Europe, and that we have been 
more concerned at the insensibility of the Indians than the 
Indians have been at the wonders which our inquietude has 
produced, in the discovery of so many different arts, whereof we 
natter ourselves, perhaps to no purpose, that necessity was the 
mother." 



MAXIMS OF THE PRIESTS. 



MAXIMS OF THE TALAPOINS, OE PEIESTS, 
OP SIAM. 

LOUBERE gives a translation from the Siamese of the maxims 
of the Talapoins, or Priests of Siam. A selection of these is 
given in the following pages. Some are omitted, which consider 
several of the actions of the priests rather " too curiously." The 
remarks within brackets are those of Loubere : 

Kill no man. [They not only do not kill, but they never strike 
any person.] 

Steal not. 

Glorify not yourself, saying that you have arrived at sanctity. 
[Every man who is not a Talapoin cannot become holy, that is to 
say, he cannot arrive at a certain degree of merit.] 

Dig not the earth. [This command is said to be laid down out 
of a strange kind of respect entertained for the "mother of 
us all."] 

Cause not any tree to die. [They are prohibited from even 
cutting a branch.] 

Kill no animal. 

Drink no intoxicating liquor. 

Do not eat rice after dinner. [They may eat fruit in the 
evening, and chew betel all the day long.] 

Kegard not songs, dances, nor players on instruments. 

Use no perfumes. 

Neither sit nor sleep in a place as high as that of your superior. 

Keep neither gold nor silver. [They are prohibited from 
touching it, but this rule is ill observed. The trade of a Talapoin 
is a trade to grow rich, and when they are wealthy enough, they 
quit the temples and marry.] 



252 EESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

Entertain not yourself with things that do not concern 
religion. 

Do no work which is not the work of religion. 

Give not flowers unto women. 

Contract not friendship with laymen, in hopes of receiving 
alms from them. 

Borrow nothing of laymen. 

Lend not unto usury, though it be only a single cory. 

Keep neither lance, nor sword, nor any arm of war. 

Eat not excessively. 

Sleep not too much. 

Sing no worldly songs. 

Play not on any instrument, and eschew all sports and 
diversions. 

Judge not your neighbour ; say not that he is good or this is 
wicked. 

Do not shake your arms in walking. [This rule is little 
observed.] 

Climb not upon trees. [The reason for this rule is, the fear of 
breaking any of the branches.] 

Bake no tile, nor burn any wood. [This is out of respect to 
the earth and the wood. It is as bad to bake a tile as to bake 
rice, and it is a wicked act to destroy wood.] 

Wink not with your eyes in speaking, and look not with 
contempt. 

Labour not for money. [The Talapoins ought to live on 
charity, and not on the labour of their hands.] 

Look not upon women to please your eyes. 

Make no incisions that may draw blood. 

Neither buy nor sell anything. 

In eating do not make the noise tchibe, tchibe, tchiabe, tchiabe, as 
dogs do. [This is the unpleasant noise which some persons make 
in chewing slowly and gently.] 

Sleep not in a place exposed to view. 

Give no medicines which contain poison. [This is on account 



MAXIMS OF THE PRIESTS. '253 

of the danger of killing. They are, however, not prohibited 
from the art of physic, on the contrary, they practise it to a 
great extent. From this circumstance the Siamese, so far from 
being scandalised to see the missionaries practising medicine, 
tolerate and love them all the more. It is necessary that the 
missionaries should freely cure the sick, either by the art of 
medicine or by miracle.] 



SINS 

If, in walking along the streets, he has not his senses 
composed. 

If he do not shave his beard, his hair, and his eyebrows, 
and dress his nails. [I know not whether this has any other 
foundation than an excess of neatness.] 

If, on being seated, he allows his feet to be suspended or 
extended. [Modesty, in their opinion, requires that the legs 
should be crossed, and the feet placed near the knees.] 

If, after having eaten, he does not gather the remains for the 
next day. 

If he has not several garments. 

If he seems to be as austere as a Talapoin of the woods, and 
pretending to keep the rules more exactly than others, performs 
his meditations in places where he is seen, while he observes 
nothing of all this when he is alone and unobserved. 

If he receives an alms, and goes presently to bestow it on 
another. 

If he speaks to a woman in a secret place. 

If he concerns himself in any of the affairs of the king, except 
those which concern religion. 

If he cultivates the earth, or breeds ducks, poultry, cows, 
buffalos, elephants, horses, pigs, dogs, after the manner of laymen. 

If, in preaching, he does not speak in the Balie language. 
[The Balie is the sacred as distinguished from the vulgar 
language in Siam. This maxim is not well rendered in the 



254 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

translation. Their way of preaching is to read out of the 
Balie, where they ought to change nothing ; but they must begin 
in the vulgar tongue, and say nothing which is not in the Balie.] 

If he speaks one thing and thinks another. 

If he speaks evil of another. 

If, on being wakened, he does not rise immediately, but turns 
himself on one side and the other. [It is necessary that it be the 
hour of rising, that is to say, that there be light enough to 
enable them to discern the veins of their hands.] 

If he seats himself on the same mat with a woman. 

If he bakes rice ; because it is a killing of the life that exists 
in seeds. 

If he eats anything that has not been offered to him with 
joined hands. [This is a piece of vanity ; for the respect due to 
the priests requires that everything be given with both hands. 
The Talapoins believing themselves holy, think themselves 
highly superior to the laymen, whom they consider as loaded 
with sin. They salute no person, not even the king ; and when 
the Sancrat, or superior priest, preaches or speaks to the king, 
his Majesty places himself behind a veil. When the king cannot 
avoid a Talapoin he salutes him ; but the Talapoin does not 
salute the king.] 

If he covets another's estate. 

If he reviles the earth, the wind, the fire, the water, or any 
other thing whatever. 

If he excites persons to quarrel. 

If he gets upon a horse, an elephant, or in a palanquin. [He 
ought not to burden beast, nor man, nor tree.] 

If he clothes himself with rich garments. 

If he rubs his body against anything. 

If he puts flowers in his ears. 

If he wears shoes which conceal his heels. 

If he plants flowers and trees. [The Talapoins consider it 
sinful in them to dig holes in the earth.] 

If he receives anything from the hand of a woman. [The 



MAXIMS OF THE PKIESTS. 255 

woman lays the alms which she bestows on the Talapoin in 
some place, and the Talapoin takes it where the woman has 
put it.] 

If he loves not every one equally. [That is not to say that he 
must love another as well as himself.] 

If he eats anything that has life ; as, for example, the grains 
which may yet bear fruit. [But they are not forbidden to eat 
anything that has had life.] 

If he cuts or plucks up anything that has yet life. 
If he makes an idol. [They consider the idol is above the 
man, and therefore it is inconsistent that the idol should be the 
work of the man, because in justice the work is inferior to the 
workman. The laymen, therefore, who make the idols are 
thereby guilty of sin ; but, according to the priests, that kind of 
sin is inevitable. There are, however, no household idols, so 
that the laymen make idols only for the temple.] 

If he does not fill up a ditch which he has made. [He sins 
in making the ditch, and he sins if he does not repair the evil he 
has done.] 

If having no work to do he tucks up the tail of his pagne. 
If he eats in gold or silver. 

If he sleeps after he has eaten, instead of performing the 
service of religion. 

If after having eaten what has been given to him in charity, 
he pleases to make remarks on the food, saying this was good 
or that was not good. [These maxims savour of sensuality, and 
not of mortification.] 

If he glorifies himself by saying, " I am the son of a mandarin," 
or, " My mother is rich." 

If he wears red, black, green, or white pagnes. [The usual 
colour of the priest's dress is yellow.] 
If in laughing he raises his voice. 

If in preaching he changes something in the Balie text to 
please sinners. 

If he gives charms to render persons invulnerable. [They 



256 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

believe it possible to render themselves invulnerable against the 
blows of the executioners in the execution of justice.] 

If he boasts that he is more learned than the rest. 

If he covets gold or silver, saying, " When I go out of the 
convent, I will marry, and be at expense." 

If he grieves to lose his relations by death. [It is not lawful for 
the Cremg, that is the saints, to lament the Cahat, or the laymen.] 

If he goes out in the evening to visit any persons except his 
father or mother, or his sisters, or his brethren, or if he should 
unawares contrive to quarrel by the way. 

If he gives pagnes of gold or silver to other than his father or 
mother, brethren or sisters. 

If he runs out of the convent to seize pagnes, or gold or silver 
which he may suppose some one has stolen. 

If he sits upon a carpet interwoven with gold or silver which 
has not been given to him, but which he himself has caused to 
be made. 

If he sits down without taking a pagne to sit upon. [This 
pagne is called a Santat, and serves to raise the Talapoin when he 
is seated. Sometimes they make use of a buffalo's skin several 
times folded for this purpose.] 

If, while walking the streets, he has not buttoned a certain 
button worn in the garment, and if, on going into a balon or 
canoe, he does not unbutton this very button. [I know not the 
reason for this maxim.] 

If, seeing a company of maidens seated, he coughs or makes a 
noise to induce them to turn their heads. 

If he does not put his clothes on very early in the morning, 

If he runs in the street as if he were pursued. 

If he has not learned certain numbers and calculations. 
[They are superstitious numbers.] 

If, going into any one's house, he makes a noise with his feet 
and walks heavily. 

If he judges of the persons that he sees, saying, " This one is 
handsome," or, " That one is unhandsome." 



MAXIMS OF THE PRIESTS. 277 

If he boldly looks upon men. 

If he derides or rails at any one. 

If he sleeps on something high. 

If he wrangles with any one at the same time that he eats. 

If in eating he lets rice fall on one side and the other. 

If, after having eaten and washed his feet, he picks his teeth 
and then whistles with his lips in presence of laymen. 

If he threatens any one with punishment so as to make himself 
feared. 

If, in going anywhere, he resolves not to keep the command- 
ments. 

If he washes his body and takes the current of the water above 
another Talapoin older than himself. 

If he forges iron. [This also proceeds from their desire not to 
extinguish life. Iron cannot be forged without extinguishing 
the fire which has made it red.] 

If, while meditating on the things of religion, he doubts of 
anything he does not clearly understand, and yet, out of vanity, 
will not ask another who might explain it. 

If he knows not the three seasons of the year, and how he 
ought to make the conferences at every season. [The three 
seasons are the Winter, the Little Summer, and the Great 
Summer.] 

If he knows that another Talapoin owes money to any one, 
and nevertheless enters into the temple with this Talapoin. 
[We have before seen a rule which prohibits them to borrow 
from laymen.] 

If he is at enmity or angry with another Talapoin, and yet 
comes with that Talapoin to the conferences which are made 
about matters of religion. 

If he terrifies any one. 

If he causes any one to be seized by whom he loses less than a 
tikol. But if he loses more than this sum he must be dismissed. 

If he gives medicines to a man who is not sick. [Preventive 
medicines are not allowed.] 



278 RESIDENCE IN SIAM. 

If he whistles with his mouth to divert himself. 

If he cries like robbers. 

If he makes a fire or covers it. [It is not lawful to kindle the 
fire, for that is destroying what is burned, nor to cover it for 
fear of extinguishing it.] 

If he eats any one of these eight sorts of flesh ; viz., of a man, 
an elephant, a horse, a serpent, a tiger, a crocodile, a dog, or 
a cat. 

If he goes daily to beg alms at the same place. 

If he causes a basin to be made of gold or silver to receive 
alms. [They receive alms in an iron plate.] 

If he puts his hand into the pot. 

If, in eating, he besmears himself round the mouth like a little 
child. 

If he begs alms, and takes more than he can eat in one day. 

If, in going to beg alms, he coughs that he may be seen. 

If in walking the streets, he covers his head with his pagne, or 
puts on his hat, as laymen sometimes do. [They shelter them- 
selves from the sun with a fan in the form of a screen, which 
they call Talapat.} 

If in going to sing, or rather to rehearse, at a dead man's 
house, he does not reflect upon death, upon the certainty of all 
persons dying, upon the instability of human things, and upon 
the frailty of man's life. [This is partly the matter of their song 
over dead bodies.] 

If in eating, he does not cross his legs. [In general, they can- 
not sit otherwise on any occasion.] 

If being with laymen, and wrangling with them, he extends 
his feet. 



INDEX. 



A MERIC AN embassy to Siam, 226 ; its failure, 
227. 

American Missionaries, visit from, 26; 
instances of their want of courtesy, 27. 

Avrivats; great numbers of at Pigeon 
Island, 195. 

BANGKOK, first view of, 25 ; morning view 
of, 21 ; population of, 30 ; pagodas. 33 ; 
bazaars, 34 ; sale of daughters by their 
parents, 35 ; mode of spending time at, 
38 ; dockyards, 42 ; fire at, 199. 

Bankruptcy among Siamese merchants 
often pretended, 177. 

Battledoor and shuttlecock, manner of 
playing it in Siam, 94. 

Bazaars at Bangkok, 34. 

Betel-nut, use of, 153. 

Births, ceremonies at, 155. 

Britain ; Great, exports from to Siam, 176. 

CALM in the China Seas. 167. 

Cambogia; wreckers on the coast of, 169. 

Canoes, navigation on the Menam, 21: 
floating mercantile, 35. 

Ceremonies at marriages, 58; at funerals, 
61 ; at births, 155. 

Chanti Boon ; description of, 102 ; sail up 
the river, 108 ; curious old government 
official, 109; district of Chanti Boon 
well suited for rearing silk-worms, 
112; animals found in its neighbour- 
hood, 114. 

Chaumont, Chevalier de, his embassy to 
Siam, 214 ; his return to France, 217. 

Chau Naraya, King of Siarn, his character 
and history, 210; his fondness for 
practical jokes, 211 ; his reception of 
French ambassadors, 215; rebellion 
against, 218 ; dethronement of, 218. 

China; imports from, into Siam, 173. 

Chinese, numbers of, in Siam, and their 
influence, 68. 

Chinese cooks on the Menam, 24; their 
cookery, 141. 

Chinese merchants in Siam ; their jealousy 
of the English, 222. 

Chinese trading Junks; mode in which 
business is transacted by them, 174. 

Chou-Faa, Prince, asks author to cast a 
cannon, 32 ; character of the prince, 87 ; 
his desire for knowledge and love of 
literature, 88; his military exercises, 
89 ; skill in repairing watches, 90; his 
family, 92 ; description of a party at his 
house on Christmas day, 93. 

Cholera Morbus, ravages of, 82. 

Christianity, request from King of Siam 



for preachers of, 209; unsuccessful 

attempts of French to convert king to, 

217. 
Christmas in Siam ; how the author spent 

it, 92. 

Climate of Siam, on the whole, healthy, 78 
Cobra de Capella, curious habits of, 115. 
Cochin Chinese, dispute between them 

and Siamese, 161 ; they seize Siamese 

junks, 162. 
Commercial restrictions imposed by 

Siamese government, 177, 181. 
Consett, Prenawi, Lord High Admiral, 23 ; 

his courtship, 59. 
Councils of the king about conduct of 

Cochin Chinese, 162. 
Court ceremonies, account of, 53. 
Courtship in Siam, 59. 
Crawfurd, Mr., his embassy to Siam, 223; 

its difficulties, 224 ; its reception, 225 ; 

negotiations for commercial treaty 

226 ; their failure, 226. 
DAY at Bangkok, description of, 35. 
Dead, burning of the, 62. 
Diseases prevalent in Siam, 74. 
Dockyards at Bangkok, 25 ; description of 

48. 

Drum fish in the Menam, 20. 
Dutch, their intrigues against the French 

embassy to Siam, 218 ; their dethrone- 
ment of the King of Macassar, 219. 
EDUCATION of children, 156. 
Elephants, white, considered sacred in 

Siam, 96 ; visit to, and description of, 99. 
European intercourse with the East, 221. 
Expedition against Cochin China, 163. 
FESTIVAL of the peace-offering, description 

of, 125, 130. 
Fire at Bangkok, 199. 
Fish, novel mode of catching, 139. 
Flowers, profusion of, at Pigeon Island, 193. 
French embassies to Siam in reign of 

Louis XIV., 213; the ambassadors, 

214; interview with the king, 216; 

haughty conduct of the French, 217 ; 

consequences of, 218; their expulsion 

from Siam, 219. 
Funeral ceremonies, 61. 
GAMBLING ; nobles and opulent merchants 

much addicted to, 150. 
HOUSES, mode of fastening and removing, 

29 ; mode of construction and its dis- 
advantages, 31; infested by reptiles 

71. 
Hunter, Mr.. 32 description of his house 

32. 



280 



INDEX. 



INDIA, exports from, to Siam, 176. 

JAPANESE, their influence in the history of 
Siam, 208. 

Jesuits, their missions to Siam, 211 ; un- 
successful attempts to convert the king 
to Christianity, 215, 217. 

Johore, offer of the king of, to expel 
French from Siam, 218. 

KING of Siam, audience with, 52 ; great 
jealousy and fear of the British, 179. 

LANGUAGE of Siam, 238. 

Lanterns, Feast of, at Bangkok, 26. 

Legend of the King's daughter, or " Old 
Sol and Rosy Morn," 126. 

Loubere's account of the Siamese in 1687, 
262. 

Louis XIV., his embassies to Siam, 211 ; 
nature of his projects, 214 ; defeat of 
these, 217. 

MACASSARS, revolt of, in Siam, 218. 

Marines of the Siamese navy, 163; their 
thorough inefficiency, 167. 

Market-boats on the Menam, 21. 

Map of Siam, drawn by the Prime Minister, 
55. 

Marriage ceremonies, 58. 

Menam, river, tides in, 13 ; voyage up, 19 ; 
description of scenery on banks, 24; 
harbour of refuge at mouth, 181 ; how 
the river may be easily improved, 186. 

Mines of Siam, 177, 266. 

Missionaries, American, controversies 
among, 34. 

Missions, French Catholic, 39 ; high cha- 
racter of the missionaries, 40 ; their 
influence over the Siamese, 41. 

Monkeys, reason why they are respected in 
the East, 71. 

Monsoon, description of, 79. 

Mulberry Tree may be cultivated with ad- 
vantage in Siam, 187. 

Musical instruments of the Siamese, 234. 

NAVY of Siam, 43; how the ships are em- 
ployed, 44 ; organisation of the navy, 
45 ; the marines, 163. 

OPIUM smoking, nobles and opulent mer- 
chants much addicted to, 150 ; effects 
of, 150. 

PAGODAS at Bangkok, description of, 33. 

Paknam, arrival at, 1 2 ; government regu- 
lations, 13; diminutive fort at, 14; 
account of inhabitants, 16 ; attack of, 
on the English, 16 ; punishment of, for 
the offence, 17 ; interview with the 
governor, 18. 

Paklat Belo, description of, 20. 

Paklat Boon, description of, 22 ; dockyards 
at, 23. 

Parrots, shooting of, at Pigeon Island, 196. 

Peer-si-pi-foor, narrative of his rebellion, 
48. 

Pepper, value of shipments from Siam in 
1841, 69. 



Phaulkon, Constantine, his history, 212; 

influence in Siam, 213; his intrigues, 

217; his death, 219. 

Pigeon Island, shooting excursion to, 190. 
Population of Bangkok, 30. 
Portuguese serving as soldiers in Burmese 

army against Siam, 207. 
Portuguese Consul, anecdote about the 

residence of, 46 ; habits of the Consul 

and missionaries, 47. 
Portuguese, embassy from King of Siam to, 

at Goa, 209. 
Priests, appearance of, in the morning, 36 ; 

maxims of, 271. 

Prisons, public, description of, 34. 
Pulo Bardia, account of, 120. 
Pulo Obi, description of. 9. 
Punishment of a rebel in Siam, 51. 
RATS, domestication of, 71. 
Rebellion of Peer-si-pi-foor; narrative of 

and punishment of, rebel, 48. 
Reptiles ; houses infested by them, 71. 
SAILORS ; English, adventure with, 203. 
Siam, geographical account of, 67 ; its 

productions, 69 ; its export trade, 69 ; 

animals found in, 71 ; nature of its 

climate, 78; vegetables produced, 85; 

its great capabilities, and how these 

could be developed, 187. 
Siam ; history of; early records, 206 ; inva- 
sion of Burmese in 1568, and subjection 

of the Siamese, 207 ; re-assertion of 

their independence, 208. 
Siamese; their division into two tribes, 

68; gradations of rank, 70; food used, 

74; general temperance, 75; diseases 

to which subject, 75; general character 

of, 147 ; their habits and customs, 149 ; 

description of women, 153; education 

of, 156. 
Siamese despatches ; description of, 197 ; 

curious adventure with one, 198. 
Singapore, trade of Siam with, 175. 
Songs of the Siamese ; the Boatman's Song, 

230 ; the Culprit Priest's lament, 231. 
Sugar cane, 22. 
TEA, excellent quality of that used in 

Siam, 173. 

Tombs of the three kings, 33, 57. 
Trade of Siam, reason why the value of 

imports is so small, 69 ; imports from 

China, 173 ; visits of Chinese trading 

junks, 175; exports to Singapore, 175; 

imports from India and the Straits of 

Malacca, 176; imports from Great 

Britain. 176; restrictions on trade, 

177. 
Typhoon in the Chinese seas, description 

of, and its effects, 4, 166. 
WHIRLWIND, effects of, in Siamese Gulf, 

119. 
YUTHIA, description of ruins of, 143. 



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